Tesla Model X

Tesla is set to expand its electric vehicle lineup with a new compact SUV, slotting below the Model X. Set to be called the Model Y, the new car is set to fill out the carmaker’s range that also includes the Model S sedan and the cheaper Model 3, according to an Autocar report.

As with the Model 3 on which it will be based, the Model Y is expected to be significantly more affordable than Tesla’s other offerings. The former is set to be priced from around US$37,000 (RM165,000), so the latter should be slightly more expensive. However, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk believes that actual transaction prices will be closer to US$41,000 (RM182,000) for the Model 3 and US$45,000 (RM200,000) for the Model Y, as buyers are likely to spec their cars with cost options.

Expected to be unveiled some time next year – with production slated to begin towards the end of the year – the Model Y should come with the Model X’s distinctive “falcon doors” for easier entry and egress in tight spaces. Not a lot of details have been revealed just yet, but the car will almost certainly come with the same Autopilot 2.0 hardware as other new Tesla models, promising fully-autonomous driving capabilities.

The system includes eight surround cameras that will provide up to 250 metres of 360-degree visibility, plus 12 updated ultrasonic sensors and an enhanced forward-facing radar capable of seeing through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead. Processing all that data is an Nvidia Titan GPU supercomputer with more than 40 times the power of the current system.

Tesla Model 3

Adding all that tech to the Model 3 and Model Y won’t be cheap, at nearly US$8,500 (RM38,000) per car. Autocar states that keeping prices low while providing a range of at least 370 km will also be a challenge, especially with a cheaper sub-60 kWh battery on the Model 3. The added weight and aerodynamic drag of the Model Y’s SUV body will likely necessitate a bigger battery, which will raise prices.

Tesla is rushing to raise its production levels in order to make a profit on its business. A total of US$2 billion (RM8.9 billion) has been pumped into the company since 2010 to build its Gigafactory battery plant and to expand production to 500,000 units a year by 2019.

Although the Freemont-based company delivered around 76,000 vehicles last year, it claimed that it was able to build around 2,000 vehicles a week by the second half of the year. It wants to build over 100,000 units of the Model 3 by the end of this year, with as many as 400,000 deposits already received.