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We Underestimate Tesla

That's because people are still only talking about the cars -- not the entire mission.

Kyle Field/CleanTechnica

Last week, Tesla pre-sold 300,000 Model 3 cars in less than 72 hours.

That means the company received $300 million in deposits, worth more than $12 billion in preorders, in less than three days. The car won’t even be delivered for 18 months! For Apple to get the same amount of preorder revenue would require 20 million iPhones to be ordered in 72 hours. That’s incredible.

Even considering this, people underestimate Tesla. The reason is because people are still only talking about the cars – not the entire mission.

Tesla is accelerating the shift toward sustainable transport and energy consumption by producing the world’s best electric cars and energy storage systems. – Tesla mission statement

The Model 3 is the manifestation of the “world’s best electric cars” part of the mission. However, there is more to “accelerating the shift toward sustainable transport” than just the manufacture of vehicles. The cars also need to be charged after being driven. This is a big challenge and an important undertaking.

For perspective, $400 billion a year is spent on gasoline in the U.S. to keep our cars fed. Even once the Model 3 comes out, one of the most compelling reasons to keep buying a gas car is the dense, already existing network of gas stations.

Tesla is conscious of this challenge and has been working to solve it with two different approaches. The first is the Supercharger Network, which is an international network of rapid charging stations. Even though Tesla cars have a 200+ mile range, that’s not good enough for long road trips. The Superchargers provide free, rapid charging that is accessible from any major highway.

Superchargers now:


Superchargers expected by the end of 2016:


Looking at the map of Superchargers, you can see that Tesla is clearly investing here.

Tesla’s second approach is by making it easier to charge the car at home with the Tesla Powerwall. Introduced last year, the Powerwall is effectively a home battery. While full-scale production won’t start till 2017, and Tesla is already working on a new version, expect it to be able to rapidly charge a connected Tesla car. More importantly, expect the Powerwall to whittle away at the reasons not to own an electric car.

Looking at the top-left corner of Tesla’s website, where it lists its products, you can see the importance the company places on Supercharger and Powerwall — they are on the same line as the Model S and Model 3.


Today the Powerwall and Supercharger network support the sale of Tesla cars. Tomorrow, we may see them feeding electric cars beyond Tesla: BMWs, Toyotas, Ubers, Chevy Bolts and others. The same way Amazon has turned its fulfillment centers into a revenue generator, Tesla could turn the Powerwall and Supercharger into a profit center by selling access to other car companies.

The future Tesla makes millions of premium electric cars, improves them with over-the-air updates, provides the equipment for charging electric cars at home and operates the stations for “fueling” them when out. To value that company, you need to think about BMW’s business (making cars) and Exxon Mobil’s downstream business (selling gas) — it’s massive.

(Full disclosure: As a longtime Tesla believer, I bought stock during the IPO, and recently bought more.)

Preet Anand is the CEO of BlueLight, a company focused on bringing 911 and personal safety into the digital age. BlueLight is used by people nationwide, and was featured in the White House’s Smarter Cities initiative in September 2015. Previously, Anand was the youngest lead product manager in Zynga’s history; he graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in engineering physics. Reach him @preetnation.

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