Tesla’s Model S just got more affordable. Elon Musk’s electric car company announced this morning it will introduce a version of the sedan with a less powerful 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack, at a base price of $66,000. That makes it a bit cheaper than the previous cheapest version of the car, which started at $70,000.
The Model S is still very much a luxury car, and that new lower price is still double what Americans pay on average for a new vehicle. But it’s striking because it’s the first time Tesla has made one of its products cheaper. Since its 2012 introduction, Tesla has steadily improved the sleek seven-seater—and the price has gone up accordingly. It was introduced for under $60,000, but the base price had risen up to $70,000. (The top of the line model, the P90D, with all-wheel drive and a 90-kWh battery pack, starts at $109,500.) The sedan now comes with all-wheel drive (a $5,000 option on the new 60-kWh version), autopilot, and a slew of software improvements that make driving on electricity more practical.
The new Model S 60 will offer a range of more than 200 miles (you get close to 300 in the 90D), a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.5 seconds, and standard active safety features. You get the hardware (cameras and radar) necessary for autopilot, but the software that actually lets you take your hands off the wheel will cost you another $2,500.
Interestingly, the battery pack in this new car is in reality a more powerful 75-kWh pack, handicapped to perform as if it were a 60-kWh unit. For $9,500, you can unlock the car at any point with an over-the-air software update, and snag a 19 percent range bump.
Though it’s possible there are other practical benefits to offering this battery, Tesla says the price drop is a response to potential customers “who would like to buy a Model S, but can more easily afford it only at a lower price point.”
Whatever the reasoning, there’s symbolism here. For the past decade, Musk has been promising an electric car for the hoi polloi, to do in this century what Ford’s Model T did in the last. That car will be the Model 3, the $30,000 car Tesla showed off in March, but won’t start building until late 2017, at the earliest.
This Model S is no working man’s car, but it’s a step closer to the masses.