Tesla doesn’t like to talk about its battery cost as it complicates an already complex supply chain with several suppliers, including long-time partner Panasonic, and new ones like LG and Samsung. But the company felt the need to comment this week following a new analysis of the Model 3’s cost by Jon Bereisa, CEO of Auto Lectrification and former chief engineer of the Chevy Volt program.
Colin Langan, a UBS analyst covering Tesla for the firm, hosted a call with Bereisa to gain some insights for its financial model of the company.
In a new note (via StreetInsider), Langan writes that Bereisa’s Model 3 estimate cost breakdown adds up to the vehicle being unprofitable for Tesla. He estimates the Model 3’s factory variable cost (FVC) to be $1,510 above its $35,000 starting price, while he sees the Chevy Bolt’s FVC at $4,980 below its $37,500 starting price.
Bereisa based his analysis on the base Model 3 being offered with a 60 kWh battery, like the Bolt, and on Tesla achieving a cost of ~$190/kWh. He estimates that Tesla’s current battery pack cost (cells, casing, cooling and entire pack) is at $260/kWh, while GM’s is at $215/kWh. GM’s cells and battery pack are manufactured by its partner LG Chem.
It’s interesting to note that Bereisa worked at GM for decades and he was one of the top engineers working on electric vehicles at the automaker ever since the EV1 program.
Tesla’s Vice-President of Investor Relations, Jeff Evanson, jumped in on the call between Langan and Bereisa to correct their analysis. Evanson stated that Tesla’s battery pack cost is already below $190/kWh – meaning at least 26% less than Bereisa’s current estimate – and that the base Model 3 will be offered with a battery pack option smaller than 60 kWh, like Bereisa assumed.
We reached out to Tesla for a transcript of what Evanson said exactly and we will update if the company gets back to us.
During the Model 3 unveiling last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the base Model 3, which is expected to start at $35,000 before incentives, will have a range of over 215 miles on a single charge. While Musk didn’t confirm the energy capacity of the pack, it will be impressive if Tesla can achieve such a range on a less than 60 kWh pack, like Evanson is now suggesting.
During the call, Evanson also said that the Model 3 will be partially made of aluminum, something Tesla officials said in the past. While the car’s chassis should end up heavier on volume than the all-aluminum Model S, the Model 3 is about 20% smaller than its older brother, which should compensate and help achieve a 215+ miles range on a less than 60 kWh pack.
The Model S was originally offered with a 60 kWh battery option which has since been discontinued. The version of the all-electric sedan was advertised with a 208 miles range but is much heavier/bigger than the Model 3.
As a comparison, the similar sized Nissan Leaf now has a 30kWh battery pack option with an EPA rating of 107 miles (116 City/95 Highway miles).