Tesla has always been at the forefront of electric vehicles, but affordability has often been a point of contention. Now, in an unexpected move, Tesla has updated its US website to introduce a more budget-friendly Model Y. With a base price of $43,990, this could be the most affordable Model Y ever offered in the United States, especially when combined with federal tax credits.

New Price, New Features

The new Model Y Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) replaces the previously cheapest Model Y All-Wheel Drive (AWD), which had a base price of $47,740 before being discontinued last month. The RWD model is $3,750 cheaper than the AWD version it replaces, primarily because it features a single motor instead of two and likely employs a cheaper battery technology.

The LFP Advantage

Tesla seems to have opted for Lithium-Iron-Phosphate (LFP) batteries for this new model, a departure from the more commonly used Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt (NMC) cells. LFP batteries are not only cheaper but also more durable. They have a lower energy density, which affects the car’s range, but on the flip side, they don’t contain cobalt, a conflict mineral.

The new “standard range” Model Y RWD has a listed range of 260 miles, compared to 279 miles for the previous AWD version. This reduction in range is likely due to the switch to LFP batteries. However, these batteries can be charged to 100% every day without affecting their lifespan, unlike NMC batteries, which are generally recommended to be charged up to 90% daily.

Performance and Configuration

The new model doesn’t just come with cost-cutting features. It has a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds, slightly slower than the 5.0 seconds boasted by its AWD predecessor. Additionally, the 7-seat configuration option is not available for this version.

An International Perspective

Interestingly, the Model Y with LFP batteries has been available in China since 2021, and a similar model was introduced in Canada earlier this year. The U.S. version’s specifications closely resemble the older China model, making it an intriguing addition to Tesla’s American lineup.

Affordability and Incentives

What makes this Model Y truly stand out is the potential for a significantly reduced price due to the $7,500 US Federal EV Tax Credit, bringing the post-credit base price down to $36,490. Some buyers might even snag this car for under $30,000 if they can take advantage of additional state or regional incentives.

However, this affordability could be short-lived. The Inflation Reduction Act specifies that new EV tax credits will require batteries to be manufactured outside of China. Given that Tesla’s LFP batteries are currently made in China, the model could lose access to federal tax credits by year-end.

Order and Delivery Timeline

According to Tesla’s website, deliveries for the new Model Y RWD are expected to begin in October-November 2023, indicating a lead time of up to 8 weeks for orders placed now.

Final Thoughts

The introduction of a more affordable Model Y could be a game-changer, not just for Tesla but for the electric vehicle market as a whole. However, with the looming tax credit changes and a potentially confusing history of model availability, it remains to be seen how long this affordability will last. For those considering a Tesla but put off by the price, now might be the perfect window of opportunity.