Tesla Motors Inc has not yet revealed the version of the Model X that it will begin to ship out to those with Signature bookings on September 29. There are five key features that we still know very little about, and they might decide whether or not Tesla Motors will be able to keep its reservation numbers rising as it seeks to fulfill its orders.
Among the hottest questions that Tesla Motors still has to answer are the following: Will Autopilot arrive on the Model X?; How will the second row of seats work?; What does the front of the Model X look like?; What are we going to do with that windscreen? and, of course, when will full scale delivery begin? Here’s what we know about those questions, and what the answers might be.
1) Autopilot on Model X?
This is a really major question. We know that the Model X will be released with the standard hardware that Tesla Motors is testing to bring auto-pilot features like lane-keeping and self-parking to the Model X. We don’t know whether the software will be ready to launch in the coming weeks, and each day makes it seem less and less likely.
Elon Musk, an exec known for writing cheques his software team simply can’t cash, said back in March that the Autopilot update would arrive this Summer. Taking the most generous definition of Summer possible there’s just a few days before the end of the season on September 22.
Given the lack of an Autopilot launch on the Model S, it seems that those shelling out for a Model X on day one will have to wait. Mr. Musk has teased and teased Autopilot, giving those watching hope that the software will arrive sooner rather than later.
Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley reckons that Tesla Motors will announce a whole new business based on Autopilot before the end of Q1 2016. Tesla Motors will have to release the first version of the tech before building out its plans to make the world’s cars drive themselves.
That’s not the only mystery that Autopilot on the Model X holds. There have been rumors that the Model S doesn’t have the hardware and sensors needed to make self-driving work. The Model X may use more advanced versions of the hardware, and tinkerers will be looking to see if that’s true after the first Model X arrives.
2) How will Tesla Motors make those seats work?
The doors may have captured most of the Model X headlines, but it’s the seats that Elon Musk seems to have focused on. In the firm’s call after its most recent earnings reveal Musk told analysts and investors, “our biggest challenges are with the second row seat, which is, it’s an amazing seat, like a sculptural work of art, but a very tricky thing to get right.”
Even after seeing some pics of the inside of the Model X, thanks to the open of the Design Studio for those with Signature bookings, it’s not clear how the second row seats are going to work. A new storage render from the TMC forums gives us some idea.
The pic shows two things. The back row of seats is folded entirely flat, while the second row of seats have tilted toward the front. In this configuration the Tesla Motors Model X won’t be able to hold more than two people, but it will be able to bring a pile of cargo.
The renders are supposed to be from the Model X Design Studio meaning that what they show will be the final shape of the Model X. We’re still not sure of the range of motion in the seats, however, and it seems that Elon Musk is going to make us wait until at least September 29 to see what it can do.
3) What does the Model X look like?
We don’t wholly know what the Model X will look like despite the reveal of the online design studio. Tesla Motors has held pictures of the front of the next big EV from those paying more than $100,000 to get their hands on one and we’ll have to wait until the release of the final version of the car for a good luck at the design.
The front of the Tesla Motors Model X has been the subject of speculation since Mules started appearing with different styles of nose cone and different levels of camouflage.
We really don’t know what we’re getting with front of the Model X. Elon Musk’s secreting may have something to do with another major feature that raises more questions than answers.
4) That massive Model X windscreen needs finesses
The Model X Windscreen is going to extend up and over the heads of those in the front and passenger seats. That sounds like it’s going to be hell to replace, but it may be a key feature to draw eyes to the Model X, and boost Tesla Motors sales over the next couple of years.
It seems clear that the large windshield will come as standard on the Model X. What isn’t clear is what other modifications Tesla Motors will need to make in order to have that weight of glass be bearable for those driving and riding in the Model X.
The firm will need to put together some kind of innovative blind system and it’s likely that UV filters will be needed on the standard version of the windshield. The full glass front is a beautiful touch, but Tesla Motors will need to add quite a few features in order to make it work well.
5) When will it be delivered?
We know that we’ll see the first unit of the Model X on September 29, but it’s not clear how long it will take Tesla Motors to start full scale production of the car.
Mr. Musk kept it vague in the June quarter conference call. He said that the firm would hit close to 2,000 units per week, of both the Model X and Model S, next year. Production of the Model X won’t, he said, ramp up until late in the fourth quarter. That means we won’t see more than 800 per week built before December.
There are more than 25,000 orders for the Model X on the books right now. We’re not likely to see those filled before the second quarter of 2016 at the rate Elon Musk seems to be promising.
For those that have booked the Model X the real release date isn’t on September 29, it’s the date when their own package from Tesla Motors arrives. At the very least they’ll have the first four questions on this list answered before the end of the month. The fifth question will take a lot longer to figure out.