The cheapest Tesla will be skimped on features when compared to the other models

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It wouldn’t be wrong to say what the EV market is what it is today because of Tesla. The Musk-led company has revolutionized this segment in the last decade or so. The company has got four mass-market, mainstream cars at the moment – the Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and the Model X – and others like the Cybertruck and the Roadster that are yet to arrive or are niche products.

While the S3XY range is doing very well in the market, neither of them can be called ‘affordable’ cars. In the past, Musk had made it clear that Tesla won’t be making any cheap cars, but at the Tesla Battery Day last year, he set a cat amongst the pigeons when he said that the company will build a $25,000 car. It became the talk of the town even though not much is known about it. But, here’s everything you need to know about this affordable Tesla EV.

Before we get going, do note that there is no concrete information about the $25,000 EV and most of the things are mere speculations based on the few details we already know. So, take it with a pinch of salt.

Reports Suggest It Could Arrive In 2022?

Everything We Know About the $25,000 Tesla EV
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Initial news had suggested that the cheapest Tesla would arrive in 2024 or 2025. However, Tesla Facts retweeted Moneyball’s tweet which showcased an eco-assessment report of the Gigafactory Shanghai in China that shows that the production could begin in 2022. It also mentioned that the car will be underpinned by Model 3’s chassis. We’ve heard rumors of Tesla building a new hatch. This cheap EV could be a Tesla hatch, probably.

While it sure is interesting and there’s an image of a document supporting it, it still seems highly unlikely. The car is expected to make use of the new battery Tesla revealed at the Battery Day 2020. However, to reach mass production status and to be able to use it in cars, Tesla will have to ramp up the production significantly. And, at the Battery Day event, Musk had said, "In three years . . . we can do a $25,000 car that will be basically on par (with), maybe slightly better than, a comparable gasoline car." So, in all likelihood, the $25,000 Tesla is still some time away.

It Will Feature The New 4680 Battery

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The biggest reason why Tesla says building a cheap electric car is possible in the first place is because of the new battery tech that will help contain costs. The new battery, called the 4680, was unveiled at the Tesla Battery Day 2020.

The name is derived from its dimensions – 46mm by 80mm. In pure size, it is bigger than the cells Tesla has been using.

So far, battery cell manufacturers have faced a problem when creating bigger cells, thus limiting their capacity. Tesla, however, countered it by creating the first tabless cylindrical cell design. It is said to offer six times the power, five times the energy capacity, and 16-percent more range than the current crop. The highlight of this is that the 4680 cells will result in a 14-percent cost reduction per kWh at the cell from factory level. Since the biggest cost involved in the production of an EV comes from batteries, 14-percent is not a small amount.

Single-Motor Setup

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The tweet showcasing the report also mentions that the car will be based on the Model 3’s chassis. Given the price point, a single motor setup is all that it could offer in the base trims. An all-wheel-drive model could also be offered, but the price would probably breach the $30,000-mark. Tesla could also opt for a front-wheel-drive configuration that won’t just differentiate it from the cars and make the Model 3 look premium and not an entry-level EV - it would also contain costs for the automaker. Front-wheel-drive setups are cheaper to build than the rear-wheel-drive models. Cars like Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen e-Golf come with a front-wheel-drive setup. It will take a hit in performance , but it’s a $25,000 Tesla; should you be complaining?

200 Miles Of Range Seems Apt

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Elon Musk had said that a 250-mile range would be unacceptably low and that 300 is the minimum range for any EV. However, Elon Musk has backtracked on his words in the past – including not developing a cheap EV – but here we are.

Currently, the cheapest car in the Tesla range is the Model 3 Standard Range Plus that starts at $37,990. It comes with an EPA-estimated range of 263 miles from its 54 kWh battery pack.

Plonking a smaller battery pack, smaller than 40 kWh, coupled with the reduced cost of the cell is one of the biggest ways to bring down the price of the car. For what could be the cheapest, full-fledged electric car, 200 miles is a very good range. To put things into perspective, the Mini Cooper SE is priced at $29,900 before the federal tax credit benefits. It comes with a 28.9 kWh battery pack and delivers just 110 miles of range.

If you do the math, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus delivers 4.87 miles per kWh. Tesla says the new 4680 battery offers 16-percent more range, which means it would deliver 5.65 miles per kWh. So, a 36 kWh battery pack should do the trick to achieve this figure, which serves as a win-win situation for Tesla as well as the costumers.

Won’t Be A Performance Beast Like Its Siblings?

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It goes unsaid that this $25,000 car will be the least powerful model that Tesla has to offer. The benchmark here is the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus which comes with a single motor mounted on the rear axle that makes 283 horses and 307 pound-feet of torque. The cheaper Tesla could have probably around 200 ponies and 225 pound-feet of twist. This isn’t too bad when compared to the internal combustion-engined cars in this price bracket. The Model 3 Standard Range Plus takes 5.3 seconds to gallop to 60 mph. Keeping that in mind, a six-second sprint to 60 mph wouldn’t be too bad for it.

Fully Autonomous

When talking about the car, Musk had also mentioned that it will be fully autonomous. This means the car will come with Tesla’s Autopilot, which is a suite of advanced driver-assistance systems that features stuff like lane centering, adaptive cruise control, self-parking, etc., and basically helps reduce your workload as a driver. The technology is still under development, but it could be out by the time this car hits production. It will be an optional package and Tesla won’t offer it as standard on its cheapest car ever. Back in June last year, Tesla offered the basic package for $2,000. Post July 2020, the full self-driving option was offered for $8,000. There’s no way Tesla is offering either of them as standard.

Expect Sub-Par Quality All Around

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While it seems very exciting at the onset, Tesla cars are infamous for their poor build quality, even in the most expensive models. The Model 3, of course, bears the brunt of the lot. Paint issues, panel gaps, and even falling steering wheels (art188455) – the car has seen it all. So, for a car that will be a lot cheaper, be ready to embrace a lot more issues unless Tesla magically becomes a perfect manufacturer by the time the $25,000 EV is launched.

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read full bio
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