Despite All Odds, Here’s Everything Tesla Accomplished in 2020

by Denis Gurskiy

2020 has come to an end to the big relief of basically everyone who had to live through this year. With the year over, we can now look back at our article from a year ago where we talked about some of the things that you could expect from Tesla in 2020.

Tesla Model Y

Coming into 2020 the Model Y was set to be the latest addition to the growing Tesla lineup. While not all too dissimilar to the Model 3, it was entering into a very popular and lucrative crossover vehicle market. Initially, the electric car was set to start production in early 2021. This was later aggressively pushed forward to mid-2020 and even that deadline was beaten when Tesla started delivering Model Ys around March 2020.

The launch of a new model is probably the most important task that an automaker could have and Tesla was able to do it without many hiccups. One misstep however was the cancellation of the base Standard Range Model Y which was initially announced alongside the other motor configurations. While it was initially announced that the Standard Range would have a range of 230 miles, Elon Musk and Tesla wanted to push that number beyond 250 miles and couldn’t. As a range of under 250 miles is “unacceptably low” the model was cancelled and we are now waiting for a single-motor Long Range to take its place.

The Model Y looks to continue being an important model for Tesla as it is the only model that is planned to be built in all of their factories (Fremont, Shanghai, Berlin, and Texas). 

Tesla Semi

electric semi

The red-headed stepchild of Tesla continues to be either neglected or worked on in secrecy. Last year we said:

At this point, we are just waiting on the final specs and first deliveries, with the Model Y and Gigfactory 3 taking up a lot of attention we wonder if we won’t see the Semi until late 2020.

But unfortunately, we have not received much word on the Semi. The project is alive however and we still see mentions of the Semi in leaked emails and earnings reports. Musk has stated his want to bring the Semi into volume production, and earnings reports state that 2021 is now the new timeline for that to happen. First unveiled in 2017 the Semi has seemingly gotten a case of chronically being pushed further up the timeline.

Despite the delays, Tesla has continued to see large orders from companies for the Semi. Two of the recent ones came from Walmart Canada for 130 trucks and Pride Group Enterprises for 150 trucks (with an option to increase to 500).

Will it really happen this time? Who knows.

Tesla Roadster

The other neglected stepchild, the Roadster has not gotten much news in 2020, but we do know that Tesla is acknowledging its existence. We rightfully weren’t too optimistic about the Roadster’s chances:

We don’t have high hopes for seeing a production Roadster for Tesla in 2020, but hopefully we’ll get some more information, maybe even a look at these thrusters that Elon keeps talking about.

Didn’t even get to see those thrusters yet.

Unsurprisingly the Roadster has tentatively pushed back. During one of the Earnings calls this year, Musk stated that they are hoping to start production of the Roadster sometime in mid to late-2021 with a possibility of being pushed back to 2022. Additionally, some people who earned a discount on a Roadster through the now-defunct Tesla Referral Program received an email from Tesla asking them to confirm whether they want to claim their discount or not. The timing of these emails seemed rather odd given that it doesn’t seem like the Roadster will be here anytime soon, but it’s good to know that Tesla remembers that it exists.

Fingers crossed for 2021.

Tesla Model S/X Update

2019 closed off with us witnessing a battle between the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan around the Nurburgring. This was our first glimpse at an update or refresh of the Model S which has remained mostly the same for eight years minus a front end change. While 2020 did not bring us any sort of news regarding an interior refresh, we did get some news regarding the ultra-high-performance Plaid Model S during battery day. The specs speak for themselves:

  • $139,990
  • 520+ mile Range
  • 200 mph Top Speed
  • <2.0 second 0-60mph time

We do know that the tri-motor prototype Model S had some extra aerodynamic pieces on it during its Nurburgring runs, but we do not know if the Plaid will bring any sort of design changes to the interior or exterior of the car. 

At the time of writing, the Model S/X are in the middle of an extended production halt which has many hoping that a refresh might be in the works.

China Designed Tesla

It has been largely radio silence regarding a Chinese-designed Tesla making its way into production. When the first Model 3s from Shanghai were delivered, Musk announced that Tesla would establish a Chinese design studio that would create a model for the worldwide market. Since then it has been all complete speculation.

One theory connects it with a cheaper model that Tesla announced during its Battery Day presentation. During the presentation, Tesla showcased its model lineup which included a smaller $25,000 Tesla. Given many of the Chinese automakers prioritize smaller and cheaper cars it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for this car to be Chinese-designed.

That being said, there has been no official news regarding the vehicle in over a year. 

Gigafactory 3 

Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai was an important milestone for Tesla. Not only would it allow for Tesla to greatly increase their production capacity, but also pointed towards the continued success of the company who could now afford to expand internationally. 

At the end of 2019, the Shanghai Gigafactory was already delivering a limited number of Model 3s that were built on Chinese soil. However, it was not close to its full Model 3 production capacity and had yet to start producing any Model Ys. 

Since then the Model 3 portion of the factory has been completed and Tesla states that the plant can now produce 250,000 Model 3s. The Model Y portion of the factory is currently under construction and will be able to produce 250,000 Model Ys as well, bringing the total capacity of the Gigafactory 3 to half a million cars.

Gigafactory 4

With a proper foothold obtained in the Asian market, Tesla turned their attention to bringing production to the European continent.  The end of 2019 saw Tesla finally unveil the location of the much-rumored European factory and production later started in mid-2020. The factory will be producing both the Model Y and Model 3 with a start date of sometime in mid to late 2021 with construction not seeing any major roadblocks as of the time of this writing. 

Interestingly enough, the Berlin Gigafactory will produce a Model Y that is different from the ones made in Freemont and Shanghai. It looks like Berlin will be where Tesla tests some of its newer technologies like their new 4680 cells or upgraded paint system.

Whether the Berlin Gigafactory was always intended to be Tesla’s testbed or they are simply implementing these features due to it being the factory that is currently under construction is left to be seen.

Improved Batteries 

With 2019 giving us Autonomy Day and a showcase of how far along Tesla has gone with their Full Self Driving, 2020 was supposed to give us a Battery Day and showcase Tesla’s advancements on the battery front. Due to the world being in a constant state of ending, the event was continuously pushed back throughout the year, but it finally happened in September. 

While we didn’t get a new battery here and there, Tesla dumped a lot of plans that they have in regards to not only new battery technology but also plans to further vertically integrate their battery production. 

The most prominent announcement was their 4680 battery cell which will allow Tesla to deliver more range and higher power to their future models. Not only that, but the design allows for a price reduction at the cell level as well. While we have confirmation that these cells will be in the European Model Y, you can probably also expect the 4680 cells to be available in the Semi, Roadster, and maybe Cybertruck upon release.

Aside from revealing the new battery cell, Tesla made big plans on the battery manufacturing front as well. The company stated that it wants to output 100 GWh of cells by 2022 and 3 TWh (3,000 GWh) by 2030. For perspective, Gigafactory 1 outputs around 35 GWh of batteries.

To reach these numbers, not only does Tesla plan to continue to evolve its cells to be cheaper to make but also intends to produce the entire battery down from the cell level and build a cathode and lithium plant within the US. Needless to say it’s quite the undertaking, but should lead to Tesla being able to halve the cost of their batteries, allowing them to produce a $25,000 car and still be profitable. 

A pilot plant is expected to be completed sometime next year to put this all into practice. 

Full Self Driving/Robotaxi

Last year we were pretty skeptical that it would actually happen:

While Musk has stated that the FSD is now “feature complete” it will still take a lot of work for the system to be able to be trusted to handle and monitor itself.  We might see some major strides in the system over the next year, but achieving full self-driving within the next 12 months might just be too much of a stretch.

While robotaxis are still a ways away, that does not mean that Tesla did not make progress in the Full Self-Driving department. Over the course of the year, the system had made many improvements in object recognition, specifically in recognizing and reacting towards traffic lights and stop signs. A big step was made during the end of the year when Tesla starting giving access to their FSD Beta which allowed certain owners the privilege of having their cars actually drive them around (while still being attentive of course).

Tesla certainly believes that their system is becoming refined enough and have given multiple price jumps to the package over the year, which now sits at $10,000. With this being a fairly high cost of entry, Tesla also plans to bring out a subscription plan for the service this year, allowing owners to try out the system without having to fork over 10 big ones.

Tesla App Store

No Tesla app store yet. However given how many games Tesla continues to include with their software updates, the rumor that one will eventually happen is still strong.

Half a Million Cars?

Tesla’s production has continued to increase almost exponentially as the years have gone by. At the beginning of the year, Tesla came in with a plan to try and deliver 500,000 cars. This was of course before the Earth had other plans and resulted in Freemont being closed for a little over a month. 

At the time of writing Tesla has not revealed their Q4 delivery numbers but has remained stout that 500,000 is still the goal and is attainable despite the difficulties in the world. With the year now over, there seems to be a lot of faith that Tesla has been able to cross the mark despite being shut down for over 1/12th of the year.

A Surprise: Gigafactory Texas

While we did know that the Cybertruck would be popular, we did not expect that it would spawn its own factory back in late 2019. Despite working on both Gigafactory 3 and 4 there were whispers that another American Gigafactory would be announced by mid-2020 in time to produce the ever-popular Cybertruck.

Many cities in the mid-west were trying to jump on the opportunity of Tesla placing its foundations in their state and in the end, it came down to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Austin, Texas. Austin ended up winning out and construction swiftly began in order to be able to start production of the Cybertruck by the end of 2021. 

Alongside the Cybertruck, the Texas Gigafactory will also produce the Model Y, because it seems like we can’t get enough of the Model Y.

How do you guys think Tesla did in 2020? Let us know down in the comments below.

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