Musk Reads: Is a Tesla Model S refresh coming?

New Tesla Model S wheels have been spotted; the China Gigafactory is taking shape; and big earnings are in store for certain solar buyers.

New Tesla Model S wheels have been spotted; the China Gigafactory is taking shape; and big earnings are in store for certain solar buyers. It’s Musk Reads: Tesla Edition #107.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

Musk quote of the week

“Herbert Diess is doing more than any big carmaker to go electric. The good of the world should come first. For what it’s worth, he has my support.”

Tesla

Is Tesla working on some new wheels? A new software update reveals new 19-inch “Sonic Silver Tempest” wheels coming to the Model S. The aerodynamic design has helped Tesla offer up to 10 percent greater drive efficiency on the Model 3. While the Model S offered similar wheels at the start of its life it was soon discontinued. Adding the wheels to the vehicle and boosting efficiency could help Tesla reach the magic 400 miles of range, a step up from the current 370 miles of range.

Tesla’s China factory is building a “major engineering team,” Musk revealed Tuesday. The Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai is currently completing construction to roll off entry-level Model 3s and Model Ys for the China market, as part of Musk’s goal to get Gigafactories producing cheap cars closer to consumers. Musk suggested that the factory would encourage new ideas, adding that “great engineers will only join if original engineering is supported, not just localization.”

A Tesla owner was cleared of animal cruelty charges thanks to “Dog Mode.” Ross Hunt, an artificial intelligence expert, left his dog in the car in Dublin in June with the pet-friendly mode running. An onlooker seeing the dog alerted a police officer and the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Hunt, with the help of a Tesla technician, successfully argued in court that the mode is safe for his pet, which controlled the temperature to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and displayed a message on the screen informing passers-by.

Tesla solar

Where does Tesla solar make most sense? New analysis from EVAnnex sheds some light on the company’s clean energy business. It’s perhaps of little surprise that the publication found residential solar makes most sense for those in the sunniest states. A user in Colorado, for example, could expect the panels to pay for themselves in around eight to 12 years. If you’re in one of the six states where Tesla offers rental pricing, however, you can skip the upfront cost and start earning money much faster.

Shareholders are suing Tesla over the acquisition of SolarCity, it was revealed Monday. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2016, the same year the $2.6 billion deal was confirmed, and claims among other things that the company misled investors. In a statement to CNBC, Tesla said the allegations were “based on the claims of plaintiff’s lawyers looking for a payday, and are not representative of our shareholders who support our mission and ultimately voted in favor of the acquisition.”

What’s next for Tesla: Tesla’s “Smart Summon” feature is set to enter early access this week for American owners. Musk explained that if the update “looks good,” it could roll out worldwide as an early access feature the following week. The update enables better control over summoning and has previously been billed as a key feature of the 10th version of Tesla’s software.

Musk Reads mailroom

Dennis Nuttman writes:

  • Since we can now update our Tesla’s using our iPhone, how about being able to read the notes on the iPhone also? I’m out of the country, and have now updated my Model S twice, but have no idea what the updates are.

Tesla owners looking to find out details about software updates currently have to sit in the car, press the “T” on the touchscreen, and navigate to “Release Notes.” Smartphones are indeed more than capable of handing these notes, as demonstrated by the frequent app store updates — even if some receive criticism for being irritatingly vague. To Tesla’s credit, both the smartphone app and in-car updates manage to avoid this pitfall. Perhaps in a future version, the company could extend support for Nuttman’s feature.

Roger Wolthius writes:

  • I’d like to purchase a Model X, but want to wait if there are significant changes coming in the next 6-12 months. What do you think?

It depends on which changes you are willing to wait for. The Model X and Model S received big upgrades in April, bringing a new suspension design, longer range, and support for the 200-kilowatt superchargers.

Previous rumors in April suggested that the Model X will receive a bigger battery and sleeker interior similar to the Model 3. Musk, however, seemed to suggest this was untrue in July when he declared on Twitter that “there is no ‘refreshed’ Model X or Model S coming, only a series of minor ongoing changes.”

However, Musk did reveal last week that a new “Plaid powertrain” is set to debut at the end of next year. A prototype Model S equipped with the new powertrain set a lap time 19 seconds faster than the Porsche Taycan. The powertrain will enter production for the Model S around October 2020, followed by the Model X and second-generation Roadster sometime after.

If you’re willing to wait longer than 12 months, the new powertrain could add a serious performance boost. As with most technology products, though, you could be waiting forever if you always hold off for the next big thing.

Got any comments or queries? Don’t forget to send them over to muskreads@inverse.com.

Photo of the Week

A Model 3 body at the Shanghai Gigafactory?

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The ultra-fine print

This has been Musk Reads: Tesla Edition #107, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

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A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.