Tesla pulls back on full self-driving, gears up for Investor Day

Some buzz ahead of Investor Day, a keynote held by Tesla CEO Elon Musk on the 1st of March 2023, has American media reporting on a cheap electric model and maybe even a hydrogen version. That’s quite a U-turn for Musk, who depicted fuel cells in the past as ‘fool cells’ because of their lack of efficiency, as 30% of the energy is lost in the process

As Tesla is suspending the further roll-out and availability of the Full Self Driving (FSD) beta in North America, the event will come as a handy decoy. Following an investigation by US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) software was causing dangerous behavior in traffic and needed to be revised.

As a suited update, which will be performed over the air on the cars, is not yet available, Tesla is halting the availability of the software for customers who have ordered but not yet received it. They will be refunded.

Affirming Level 2 status

The support page the manufacturer has created admits that FSD can break the rules. Furthermore, the company accentuates more strongly that it is a Level 2 system, meaning the driver should take control under any circumstance. Musk has always attached more machine control to the system, but the company seems to be down-tuning.

To flip the coin, Tesla has leaked some design sketches of what seems to be a small EV in a corporate video. As this is happening in the wake of Investor Day, held on Wednesday, this might hint toward the affordable Model 2 Musk talked about in 2020.

Beating Volkswagen

The small car project is a Chinese development for which the company has hired dedicated staff and started design submissions. Musk stated that the targeted price point was 25 000 dollars, achieved by Tesla’s new battery technology. However, prices for raw materials have been surging since that statement.

If Tesla succeeds, it will beat Volkswagen in the race to a budget EV, helped by the German carmaker’s reshuffled strategy as new management has sent the ID.2 back to the drawing board.

But the design sketches remain vague, while it is well-known that Tesla is also readying a revamped Model 3 and a next-generation platform. Rumour even has it that a hydrogen car is in the pipeline. 

A Model S on hydrogen?

Indeed, according to several news sites, Elon Musk is also reconsidering his stance on hydrogen vehicles. This would be quite surprising as he has always been a strong opponent of the technology, calling fuel cells, where hydrogen and oxygen are mated to produce electricity, “fool cells” because of their low efficiency. Allegedly, he has now uttered an interest in the technology, stating his company is working on a solution that will ‘annihilate’ the competition.

Those are strong words, but Tesla always tries to keep ahead of the competition. And as more and more countries ramp up for a hydrogen economy and the complexity of a well-suited energy grid is becoming more tangible and challenging, the odds might change for cars emitting water vapor. A converted Model S or X would be viable, though exact information is misty.

A hydrogen Model S already exists. It’s called the Hesla and was made by the Dutch retrofitting specialist Holthausen, who’s part of Hyzon hydrogen trucks now. It’s a one-off, with a range of more than 1 000 kilometers from one tank assisting the battery pack.

The reports claim that Tesla could unveil a hydrogen version this year. But, as we know, the gap between revealing future products and finally assembling them is legendary at Tesla.


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