Tesla Overview Updated July 15, 2021

Tesla: A guide from the original Roadster to today

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May 2013 - July 2021

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The history of Tesla

Sure, you now know Tesla as a Cerberus of energy innovation, software, and booming stock, but it wasn’t always the clean energy juggernaut we know today. In fact, Tesla as a company has overcome quite a few obstacles to get where it stands today as the most valuable automaker by market cap.

Tesla Inc. was founded in 2003 as Tesla Motors by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. If you’ve been living on a deserted island or under a large rock the past 18 years, you may be surprised to hear that the company’s name is a tribute to inventor Nikola Tesla. Regardless, Ian Wright joined Tesla shortly thereafter, and the three original employees were off to the races in search of funding.

That’s where Elon Musk comes in. In early 2004, Tesla Motors managed to raise $7.5 million in series A funding, including investor Musk, who contributed all but $1 million of that total. As a result, Musk joined the company as chairman of the board. J. B. Straubel, now of QuantumScape fame, joined Tesla in May 2004 as employee #5. As a result of the first of many controversies surrounding the company, a 2009 lawsuit settlement allows all five of the original employees to call themselves co-founders.

Elon Musk

After an early investment and a role at the company, Musk began spearheading public statements for Tesla while helping facilitate more funding. This included several additional rounds, each garnering tens of millions of dollars. Musk openly discussed the company strategy of creating a sleek and stylish sports car to attract early adopters (and their wallets) before expanding production to more practical and affordable EVs with the cash flow to scale. This led to the introduction of Tesla’s flagship EV, the Roadster, which debuted as a prototype in the summer of 2006.

In 2007, cofounder Martin Eberhard was asked to step down as CEO by the board of directors, and by early 2008, neither Eberhard nor Tarpenning was still at Tesla. That is when Musk took over as CEO, a position he still holds today… along with “Technoking of Tesla.”

Tesla’s original Roadster EV

The Roadster

The Tesla Roadster hit production in 2008 as the original electric vehicle to debut for the American automaker. It helped show that EVs could be carbon conscious and cool, helping pave the way for Tesla to develop and sell more practical and efficient vehicles.

Although it was a niche vehicle from a relatively unknown automaker at the time, The Roadster emerged as the first highway legal serial production BEV to use lithium-ion batteries. It was also the first fully-electric production vehicle to travel over 200 miles on a single charge.

Tesla ended up selling close to 2,500 first-generation Roadsters over the course of the four years it was in production. Small potatoes by today’s Tesla standards, but this Roadster remains the EV that put Tesla on the map and kicked in the door of an industry still very much focused on internal combustion engines. It remains a collector’s item for many as the original Tesla.

Model S, energy storage, and Model X

Tesla started to gain steam in 2010 when it purchased what would become its Fremont Factory to begin production on two new EVs. Later that year, Tesla launched an IPO on the NASDAQ as the first American automaker to do so in over 50 years.

After discontinuing The Roadster in early 2012, Tesla began production on its Model S sedan the following summer. The car was well received as a luxury EV and was even Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year 2013.”

2015 proved to be another tremendous year for the automaker, as Tesla ventured into energy storage solutions with the introduction of its Powerwall for the home and Powerpack battery packs. Shortly thereafter, Tesla introduced its third EV: an SUV called the Model X.

Solar and Model 3

In 2016, Tesla acquired SolarCity, thus entering the solar energy game as well. It was at this point that the company dropped the “Motors” from its name, which includes solar and energy solutions in addition to electric vehicles.

Profits from previous EV models and new energy ventures allowed Tesla to scale and produce its Model 3 sedan, a mass-market EV that remains the most affordable option in the company fleet. Production issues plagued the entire production process on the Model 3, but Tesla was eventually able to deliver at a reasonable price, making it one of the best-selling EVs of all time in its short tenure.

Model Y and beyond

It would be three whole years before Tesla would deliver a new EV after the Model 3, but in March of 2020, The Model Y crossover emerged. Tesla continues to sell many of the two newly introduced EVs compared to the original S and X models, although both have seen a significant refresh this year.

For now, Tesla continues to expand its global production presence with two new Gigafactories on the way, along with three additional vehicles. This includes Cybertruck, the Tesla Semi, and a 2nd generation Roadster.

We will get deeper into those models a little later. For now, we will focus on Tesla’s current EV offerings.

Current Tesla EVs

As the company currently stands, Tesla has four electric vehicles in its fleet, varying in a number of ways — particularly in availability. In terms of sedans, Tesla has its veteran Model S and more consumer-friendly Model 3. The Model X sits as Tesla’s largest EV on the current market, while the Model Y is the company’s most recent offering as more of a smaller, crossover SUV.

Below is a breakdown of each vehicle in greater detail.

Model S

Tesla

The Model S sedan is Tesla’s longest-running EV in production to date. It made its official debut in 2012 after years as a prototype for the automaker. Since then, the sporty EV has reigned as the best-selling plug-in electric in both 2015 and 2016.

Furthermore, after Motor Trend magazine named the 2013 Tesla Model S its “car of the year,” it followed up in 2019, naming it the ultimate “car of the year” for the magazine’s entire history. Sales of the veteran Tesla have slowed since the launch of the automaker’s more cost-friendly Model 3 and Model Y EVs, but the Model S still sits as a premier sedan that offers a variety of luxury and performance for those who can afford it.

The current Long Range trim can travel 405 miles on a single charge, hit a top speed of 155 mph, and tear from 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds. Tesla recently revealed in its Model S refresh that the vehicle will now come in either a Plaid or Plaid+ trim with varied range.

Model S Plaid/Plaid+

Tesla originally claimed the Plaid+ will be able to travel an EPA estimated 520+ miles on a single charge compared to 390 miles on the regular old Plaid. Either tri-motor option can also reach a top speed of 200 mph, blowing a hole through the top speed previously held by its “ludicrous mode.” At 0-60 mph in under 2 seconds, this upcoming Tesla EV has already claimed the throne of quickest of any production car ever.

Originally the Plaid was scheduled to begin deliveries this spring with the Plaid+ to follow in late 2021. Those plans have since changed, however. In June, Elon Musk revealed that Tesla would be scrapping the Plaid+ Model S altogether, because no one needs more than 400 miles of range and the new Plaid, “is just so good.”

The Model S is Plaid listed to deliver in August of 2021, with the Long Range version to follow in September or October. For those who were holding rezzies for the Plaid+, you may want to put that money toward a 2nd generation Roadster.

Tesla’s Model X

Tesla’s Model X, its largest EV currently available, holds seniority as the automaker’s second-longest-running model on its assembly lines behind the Model S. While the Model X was originally unveiled in 2012, its first deliveries were not until the fall of 2015 due to production delays, particularly on its distinct Falcon Wing doors.

Shortly thereafter, the Model X quickly ranked as one of the top-selling plug-in EVs worldwide, although sales have since staggered a bit following the release of the less expensive Model 3 and Model Y. The Model X hadn’t seen any substantial overhauls since its initial rollout. That was until early this year when Tesla finally confirmed a refresh was, in fact, coming.

With the new refresh, the Model X will be soon available in either dual-motor AWD or a tri-motor Plaid option. The dual-motor Model X Long Range can travel 360 miles on a single charge (a slight downgrade of 11 miles from the previous Long Range Plus). That being said, it can still hit a top speed of 155 mph, and its 0-60 mph acceleration of 3.8 seconds is an improvement of .6 seconds compared to its previous version.

Model X Plaid

Additionally, Tesla has dropped the Performance trim Model X in favor of a tri-motor Plaid option. This version can travel an EPA estimated 340 miles, reach a top speed of 163 mph, and go 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds. Truthfully, this feels more like a rebranding than anything, as the Plaid powertrain offers nearly the same specs as the previous Performance trim. Plaid loses one mile of estimated range in exchange for .1 seconds saved on its 0-60. The top speed of 163 mph remains the same.

Those interested in the refreshed Model X will have to continue to wait, however, as the delivery times have been continually pushed throughout 2021. In fact, these models were originally scheduled to arrive in April of 2021, but both trims are now listed to deliver in January or February of 2022.

Model 3

Tesla

From the early years after Tesla’s inception, CEO Elon Musk was candid about the automaker’s goal of providing quality EVs most consumers could afford to drive. With 2016’s announcement of its Model 3 sedan, Tesla came one step closer to its goal of an EV at $35,000.

After an encouraging number of early reservations were made for Tesla’s most affordable model to date, the Model 3 debuted in 2017. Since then, it has cruised comfortably in the fast lane of sales. The EV currently sits as the world’s best-selling all-electric vehicle and has accounted for a majority of the total Teslas sold in recent years.

Tesla (briefly) sold a $35,000 version of the Model 3 to hit a price point originally promised by Elon Musk in years leading up to the first delivery. Last November, however, Tesla quietly removed this option during a refresh for its 2021 model. For perspective, the current version sits at a purchase price of $39,490 for the Standard Range Plus trim with zero added features.

Tesla’s Model 3 currently sells three separate drivetrains to choose from, each offering various ranges and speeds based on a customer’s preferences (and budget). The most affordable trim, the Standard Range Plus, travels an EPA estimated 263 miles, has a top speed of 140 mph, and can travel 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds.

Moving up the ladder to the Long Range trim, this version can travel 353 miles per charge and has a top speed of 145 mph. Furthermore, its 0-60 time is 4.2 seconds flat. The Performance Model 3, on the other hand, sheds 38 miles of range compared to the Long Range (315 miles) in favor of speed. This trim tops out at 162 mph and can dart 0-60 mph in just 3.1 seconds.

Tesla’s Model Y

Tesla unveiled its Model Y in 2019 as a smaller, crossover version of its larger and more established Model X mid-size SUV. After beginning deliveries to customers in March of 2020, the Model Y remains the newborn in the Tesla family but has still managed to make a significant splash in sales during its short tenure on the EV market.

Last fall, Tesla CEO Elon Musk nixed a Standard Range Model Y option but still promised a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) Long Range Model Y to follow. It then appeared that Tesla had gone back to Standard Range RWD Model Y, as it recently made this option available on its website. Almost as quickly as it was implemented, the Standard Range Model Y suddenly disappeared from Tesla’s website configurator.

Electrek later reported that the RWD Model Y will instead remain available as an “off menu” item because Musk was not satisfied with its 244-mile range. That being said, it did recently receive its official EPA rating as one of the most efficient EVs in the world.

Tesla’s newest EV now comes in two different dual-motor AWD trims: Long Range and Performance. The current Long Range trim boasts an EPA estimated range of 326 miles, can reach a top speed of 135 mph, and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Its Performance trim can travel 303 miles on a single charge, tops out at 155 mph, and can do 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. The EV also houses 68 cubic feet of cargo space.

Upcoming Tesla EVs

The following EVs have been long promised by Tesla (some more than others) but are all seemingly on the cusp of full production… at least we all hope.

Cybertruck

The upcoming Cybertruck is Tesla’s modern (albeit futuristic) take on the pickup truck, one of the last vehicles on the road to see successful electrification. Cybertruck is also only the second major Tesla vehicle outside the mainline S, 3, X, Y lineup, second only to the aforementioned 1st generation Roadster.

Cybertruck was unveiled in November of 2019 via a glass-shattering Tesla reveal, showcasing unique design and performance. The exterior is comprised of an exoskeleton of 30x cold-rolled stainless-steel structural skin and Tesla armored glass for its windows.

Updates on the Cybertruck were somewhat slow-moving after the unveiling — a solar roof option will offer an additional 15 miles of range each day, and a matte black exterior has also been confirmed. Regardless, the hype is real; Tesla tallied over 250,000 pre-orders in the first week. By February 2020, they were at half a million.

Elon Musk Cybertruck
Oops!

Powertrain variations

Cybertruck is currently slotted to arrive in three different powertrain options. A single motor RWD version will debut last in late 2022 and will offer an EPA estimated range of 250+ miles, travel 0-60 mph in under 6.5 seconds, and carry a towing capacity of 7,500+ lbs.

The dual-motor powertrain comes with AWD and a range of 300+ miles on top of 10,000+ lbs. towing capacity. This trim can travel 0-60 mph in under 4.5 seconds too.

Last and far from least is the top tier, tri-motor Cybertruck, boasting an EPA range of over 500 miles, 14,000+ towing capacity, and a 0-60 mph time under 2.9 seconds. Did we mention it has three motors?

The dual and tri-motor Cybertrucks are currently listed as delivering in late 2021 on Tesla’s website. However, many are skeptical the company will hit this target, especially since construction on Giga Texas, which will produce these EVs, is not even complete yet.

Check out our Cybertruck guide for all the latest details in one place.

Tesla Semi

The Tesla Semi promises to be the first commercial offering from the automaker and a workhorse at that. First unveiled in November of 2017, the Semi features a unique, centrally positioned driver’s seat led by four rear powertrains.

Tesla’s website lists the Semi with either a 300- or 500-mile range, depending on the battery pack, but Musk has previously stated the truck will eventually have up to 621 miles of range. The trucks are also listed at a starting price of $150,000-$180,000 depending on battery size and promise owners gas savings over $200,000.

After its unveiling, the Semi was scheduled to arrive on roads in 2019 before being pushed to low-volume production in 2020. During a 2020 Q1 results call, Tesla again shifted its delivery window to 2021. Despite multiple delays, Tesla has seen interest from major companies like Budweiser, Walmart, and UPS. Furthermore, the company plans to deliver 15 Semis to PepsiCo later this year.

The Semi trucks are currently being produced at Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory, which recently added a new production line with a goal of producing five trucks a week. Next, Tesla will move its Semi production to Austin when its Gigfactory Texas is complete later this year. For now, however, the focus will be on service technicians and infrastructure between Tesla’s Fremont Factory and Gigafactory Nevada.

Tesla Semi remains in the prototype stage, although those recently spotted appear to be updated versions of the original 2017 prototypes. At this point, Tesla is moving ever closer to finally reaching full-fledged production on its Semi trucks in 2021… but they’ve been wrong before.

Second-generation Roadster

To pay homage to its original trailblazing EV, Tesla is releasing a second-generation Roadster with groundbreaking specs, which may include the unconfirmed potential to hover.

According to Tesla’s CEO, the Roadster redux will reach a 620-mile range and zoom from 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds. Musk even teased that these are the “base specs,” hinting at even better performance. Tesla’s website is currently taking reservations for the new Roadster, as well as a variation called the Founders Series Roadster.

It remains unclear what the extra $50,000 for the Founders Series will get consumers, but Tesla is only taking reservations for 1,000 total. That would make it a collector’s item and could explain the price bump. The Founders Series Tesla Roadster costs $250,000, compared to a much more affordable $200,000 for the regular Gen. 2 Roadster.

When the revamped Roadster was first unveiled in 2017, Musk said it would deliver in 2020… then 2021. Most recently, he admitted another Roadster delay to 2022, so Tesla could focus on the Cybertruck. Whenever it does deliver, it is sure to turn heads.

Tesla manufacturing facilities

While Tesla was founded and is headquartered in the US, it has since expanded its sales and production around the world. Currently, Tesla has three operational facilities in addition to its original Fremont Factory in California, with two more on the way.

Additionally, rumors are perpetually circulating about where Tesla might break ground next, including an additional factory in China or expansion to other parts of Asia like Japan, Korea, or possibly India. You can also check out our specific map of Tesla’s Gigafactories, both current and rumored.

  • Fremont Factory – California
  • Gigafactory 1 – Giga Nevada
  • Gigafactory 2 – Giga New York
  • Gigafactory 3 – Giga Shanghai
  • Gigafactory 4 – Giga Berlin (under construction)
  • Gigafactory 5 – Giga Texas (under construction)

Here’s the latest news on Tesla’s Gigafatories, in case you’ve missed it:

Other Tesla ventures

While Tesla began as an automotive company taking a software development approach to designing electric vehicles, it has since transcended that narrow scope into new technologies. As you’ll see below, Tesla’s focus on solar panels, energy storage, and its own network of charging stations has made it just as much of an energy company, if not more.

With advancements in autonomous driving technologies, Tesla is (maybe?) on the cusp of delivering Full Self-Driving (FSD) to customers. To that note, Musk recently said on a quarterly sales call that Tesla is becoming more of an AI and robotics company too.

Full Self-Driving (FSD) capabilities

FSD has been a carrot constantly dangled in front of Tesla fans since 2014, when the company first mentioned its Autopilot feature and potential capabilities. By the end of 2016, Tesla was confident it would be able to demonstrate full autonomy a year later. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

In fact, we still have seen hard evidence of full self-driving capabilities, although Tesla did roll out a beta version of the software to a select group in October of 2020. This whole promise of FSD, along with multiple punts on deadlines, has led to controversy and debate amongst the EV community about whether Tesla’s approach to autonomous driving is even possible.

Here’s some literature to get you up to speed:

Solar

As previously mentioned, Tesla acquired SolarCity in 2016 and has been focused on becoming a one-stop-shop for all energy solutions since then. That being said, its solar rollout has been a bit haphazard.

When Tesla first unveiled its Solar Roof tiles, the product wasn’t actually complete yet, although the company had several design plans in its pipeline. Since then, Tesla has had issues bringing the solar panels to volume production and deployment, as it tried to test the longevity and make the installation quicker.

Last year, Tesla finally began to accelerate solar deployment, but the public has only seen one version of the tiles being installed on customer roofs so far, even though it was originally listed in four different styles. Many paying customers are still awaiting installation of their solar roofs, too.

Furthermore, Tesla has caught the ire of some customers as a result of price hikes and changes to policy, which now involves its Powerwall, too. Here’s the latest:

Powerwall and Powerpack

The Powerwall and Powerpack are rechargeable lithium-ion battery stationary energy storage products manufactured by Tesla Energy. The Powerwall is designed for home energy storage by storing electricity for solar self-consumption, time of use load shifting, and as a source of backup power. The larger Powerpack is specifically intended for commercial or electric utility grid use.

Tesla recently revealed a Powerwall 2 Plus went into production last November, leading to increases in capacity. So far, we have seen the first glimpses of the new Powerwall too. Here’s what we know so far.

Supercharger network

Tesla

The Tesla Supercharger exists as a combined network of proprietary charging stations developed and implemented by Tesla. As a result, the automaker doesn’t have to rely on third-party charging networks like most automakers producing electric vehicles currently do.

The Supercharger network was introduced in September 2012, beginning with six Supercharger stations. This debut coincided with the launch of Tesla’s Model S sedan, the first to utilize the new network.

Since then, the Supercharger network has grown to over 20,000 stalls worldwide within over 2,100 stations or hubs. This includes North America, Europe, Asia, and even the Arctic Circle. Tesla recently passed 1,000 Supercharger stations in North America alone.

The average station usually features about 10 Supercharger stalls, but some stations offer many more. For example, Tesla opened a 72-stall Supercharger station in Shanghai at the end of 2020, making it the world’s largest. Currently, Tesla is working through permitting for a 62-stall station on the west side of Los Angeles that could easily make it the largest in North America.

For more information, visit our comprehensive Tesla Supercharger guide.

Tesla FAQ

How much does a Tesla cost?

As you can see above, there are several different models and variations to each available to customers. Depending on the vehicle, the powertrain, down to the exterior color, all play a part in potential cost of a new Tesla. Everything you need to know is been compiled here for you:
How much is a Tesla? Your guide to Tesla prices

How long does it take to charge a Tesla?

Again, not a simple answer due to a number of factors. Where you are charging, what level of charger you are using, and what sort of output is available from that port are all common variables.

To better understand these charging levels and the differences between home and public chargers, you can check out the following guide:
How long does it take to charge a Tesla?

How much does it cost to charge a Tesla?

Another great question, but unfortunately another not so clear cut answer. Battery size, charging level, time of day, and charging efficiency can all affect how much or how little it will cost you to fully charge your Tesla. Luckily, we’ve broken it down further for you by each current model:
How much does it cost to charge a Tesla?

Tesla Stories Today

Tesla (TSLA) is currently implementing a major shift in its retail strategy, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The automaker will move away from showrooms in fancy malls, and instead it will focus on cheaper locations, remote managing of test drive fleet, and delivery centers.

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Tesla Stories Yesterday

Tesla has updated its website configurator for the upcoming Model S, to reflect delivery delays on both the Long Range and Plaid trims for new customers. The Long Range Model S especially faces a massive delay, now estimated to arrive in February or March of 2022.

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Tesla has obtained today a design patent for the Cybertruck, and the patent application references several interesting prior designs that could have influenced Tesla’s unique design.

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Tesla Energy, the automaker’s energy division, had a record quarter, but the market doesn’t seem to care much due to how small it is in relation to its automotive business.

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Su Qing, the head of autonomous driving at Huawei, has been removed from his position after making some controversial comments about Tesla — going as far as claiming that Tesla vehicles are killing people.

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Tesla has all but confirmed that Cybertruck production is going to be delayed into next year.

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Tesla Stories July 26

Elon Musk has released more details about how non-Tesla electric car owners are going to be able to use the Supercharger network once the automaker opens it up later this year.

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Tesla has confirmed that it decided to delay the “launch of the Semi truck program to 2022” over battery cell supply constraints.

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Tesla has released a rare update on 4680 battery cell production, which is critical to launching the automaker’s upcoming new electric vehicle programs.

The company confirms that there’s still some work to do.

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Tesla (TSLA) has released its financial results and shareholders letter for the second quarter of 2021 after market close today.

We are updating this post with all the details from the financial results, shareholders’ letter, and the conference call later tonight. Refresh for the latest information.

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