For electric vehicles to have a real impact on air quality, they would need to succeed in multiple segments of the market. In other words, we’d have to see electric pickups as well as luxury SUVs and smaller sedans. Tesla CEO Elon Musk acknowledged as much when he laid out the second half of the company’s ambitious master plan in 2016.
Musk stated the need for (among other products) “heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport” running on electricity. He even said that a few examples are already in the works at Tesla, and that they would be ready to reveal them to the public in 2017. Naturally, you don’t want to hold your breath or set the date in stone, but it gets you thinking about the possibilities for EVs.
With that in mind, we came up with 10 vehicles Tesla could produce in the next decade, many of which Musk has either suggested or confirmed in his speeches and blog posts. As for the rest, we imagined what direction a successful EV maker might take into the 2020s. The future certainly looks intriguing.
1. Tesla Model 3
We’ll start with one that’s guaranteed. Tesla Model 3 pretty much dominated auto news for a month after its release, and the interest has yet to die down. While the final draft is still under wraps, there are several hundred thousand people who were willing to put down $1,000 for a spot on the list. Tesla promises at least 215 miles of range, terrific acceleration, and a starting price of $35,000 before incentives. As far as EVs go in 2017, this is as good as it gets.
2. Tesla pickup truck
Glance at the best-selling vehicles of the last five years and you’ll see pickup trucks dominating the field. Automakers sell millions every year, and most of them average worse than 20 miles per gallon. Hence, you can see what type of impact an electric pickup would have on emissions. Musk said Tesla plans on making one, so this vehicle has a shot at seeing the light of day. We picture it like a cross between the two Mercedes-Benz pickup concepts (one for work, one for style) from 2016. Our guess: It won’t be like a Chevrolet Silverado.
3. Tesla minibus
Another likely future Tesla model is a small electric bus. Musk discussed the need for smaller public buses with better use of interior space. In his vision, they would be autonomous, shuttling passengers to their destinations in urban settings. There would be no center aisle or steering wheel; however, they would have room to accommodate wheelchairs and bikes. Plus, they’d be capable of taking customers door to door. We picture it like a version of the Volkswagen I.D. Buzz that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show.
4. Tesla Roadster 2.0
The original Tesla roadster was a car to get the automaker on the map — a high-priced, high-performance model made by necessity for the 1%. It got Tesla some cash to begin work on its Model S, though, so clearly it achieved its goal. Once the EV maker gets through its next to-do list, you would think engineers would take another stab at its creation, this time making it a true supercar. Why not knock one out of the park and out-Porsche Porsche? We don’t know if Tesla will approach it this way, but Musk has confirmed that the Roadster 2.0 will arrive eventually.
5. Tesla semi truck
Another likely future for Tesla is a heavy-duty hauler. Musk said the company’s semi truck would deliver “a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport” while improving drive character and upping safety features. States looking to achieve emissions goals would be interested in such a product, as would hauling companies looking to reduce operating costs. Nikola introduced a semi with electric motors powered by natural gas turbines in 2016, and we expect a Tesla product would have something in common with it.
6. Tesla shuttle
Once Tesla proves its concept of the electric minibus, we could see it expanding in size to accommodate larger crowds. Think of this idea like an airport shuttle, city bus, or employee transit. With wireless charging in effect and battery prices lower, there would be fewer obstacles and a much bigger market for electric buses. As it stands, Proterra is beginning to make headway with its zero-emissions public transit options.
7. Tesla midsize crossover
The original Tesla plan included Model S, E (which became 3), X, and Y. Spell it out and you have what Musk wanted to bring to electric cars. Ford threw a monkey wrench in the plans by keeping its trademark for “Model E,” but that ship has already sailed: Tesla will now create a Model Y, which many expect to be the crossover version of Model 3. This one is a lock, and given the state of the current U.S. market, it could very well outsell the car on which it’s based.
8. Tesla trash truck
One of the original Tesla founders, Ian Wright, started a company called Wrightspeed, which produces electrified work vehicles like delivery vans, buses, and trash trucks. As urban centers become more populated, the need for quiet, clean garbage haulers will become more pronounced. Though Musk never mentioned the potential of a Tesla trash truck, we see it as a natural progression following city buses and pickups. In terms of impact on quality of life in big cities, this model could be a game-changer.
9. Self-driving compact taxi
We’re going out on a limb here, but think outside America when considering a self-driving compact taxi, where small cars are more common and quite necessary due to high gas prices. If an automaker wanted to shrink its midsize sedan and take away the steering wheel, such a concept could be a hit — assuming it had a low starting price. Well, when the company in question has a preposterously large Gigafactory churning, this concept would seem irresistible. Low battery costs could make such cars feasible all around the world, especially when pollution levels catch up with them.
10. Next generation Model S
Tesla has been a highly active tinkerer when it comes to Tesla Model S. Every few months, it seems the company puts out an update, improvement, or tweak, making it somewhat difficult to keep up with. Keeping that in mind, we don’t see how a Model S redesign is not in the works for the coming years. Tesla got as close to perfect as possible with the current edition, but you could make a case for a better front end. If that thought is out there already, you can be sure the group in Palo Alto has something cooking on one of its burners.
Follow Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY.