A Tesla is not a car in the traditional sense. It is a work in progress, a computer on wheels that can be improved at any time via over-the-air, wireless software updates. Legacy automakers are used to holding off any improvements and bundling them together once a year when the new models are introduced. Tesla eschews such annual model changes. From the side or the rear, a 2012 Model S looks very much like a 2020 Model S.
When Tesla updates its vehicles, it often embeds details of upcoming changes within them. They aren’t visible to most owners, but the few who have figured out how to gain root access to those updates can often ferret out information the rest of us can’t see. It happened several years ago when hackers discovered references to the P100D long before that car was officially announced. One such hacker goes by the name of Green. On January 24, he added this tweet to his Twitter feed:
Obviously, a tweet is a thin reed to rely on. It could be accurate or it could be little more than idle speculation. But Green has proven to be reliable in the past. He shows his work and is followed closely for revealing upcoming changes. So, let’s assume he is on to something here. One thing we don’t know is when these changes will take place. But he thinks fairly soon for a few reasons:
Two new battery types in several configurations? We know that Tesla never stops innovating and improving when it comes to battery technology. The Model S and Model X currently use traditional 18650 battery cells while the Model 3 uses the more advanced 2170 cell format. Could the new battery types indicate the S and X will soon switch over to 2170 cells? And what will that mean in terms of performance and range? Is the Plaid powertrain about to be announced?
Elon Musk has hinted that Tesla is getting close to making a battery pack with a service life of 1 million miles. Could longer battery life be part of the new batteries coming for the S and X? “New configurations” suggests different battery sizes may be in the offing. The Model 3 will soon have a 100 kWh option. Perhaps the S and X will be offered with a 110 or 120 kWh battery option? If so, the Model S could offer up to 400 miles of range, a number that would leave most competitors in the dust. Different battery sizes could also allow Tesla to adopt new pricing strategies to help boost sales of the Model S and Model X.
New Charge Port
This one could be huge. If Tesla began offering owners the ability to use CCS charging stations, it would greatly expand the number of places they could plug in while away from home. This is something many Tesla owners have been hoping for and it may suggest — or at least hint at — a convergence in charging standards, which is something that could help accelerate the EV revolution.
This seems to suggest improvements and refinements to the current suspension systems rather than radical new ways of attaching the wheels to the car.
Seats And Phone Charging
In a subsequent tweet, Green adds, “Premium Yanfeng seats for the model 3. I wonder if just for made-in-China? Another attempt at ‘premium seat’ as before? available as ‘left only’ ‘right only’ and ‘both’ configurations but only for the front seats.” In other words, we just don’t know.
Nor do we know if the dashboard of the S and X will get an update to bring them more in line with interior design of the Model 3. Green tweets, “I would agree lots of people find the current S/X hardware somewhat stale. I know some that said if no refresh they would switch to other brands for their new car.” Inductive phone charging will be a welcome improvement for many S and X drivers.
Years ago, Elon was asked, “When is the best time to buy a Tesla?” His answer was that the company makes hundreds of changes large and small to its cars every month, changes that are simply incorporated into the production process. Therefore, a Tesla coming off the line this minute is the best Tesla ever built and the time to buy is now.
Naturally, people tend to shy away from making a buying decision if they think something better is imminent. Green tells us hints about these upgrades are now embedded in the latest firmware updates, but he can’t tell us when they will materialize. So, Elon is right. The best time to buy a Tesla is now.