Tesla reintroduces Model 3 Long Range in US… with LFP cells?

Tesla has once again started taking orders on the Model 3 Long Range in the US, after it was missing for nearly 9 months. And it looks like it might be using Lithium-iron-phosphate (LiFePO/LFP) battery cells, like the Model 3 Standard Range.

The changes appeared on Tesla’s website tonight, in Tesla’s Model 3 design studio.

The car has once again appeared, after saying it would be “available in 2023” since last August.

But there are changes which suggest the car might be using Tesla’s LFP pack, which is used in Chinese-built Model 3 and in the Model 3 Standard Range.

First, the car is now listed as having “325+” miles of range, as compared to the previous 358 miles. LFP is a cheaper, less energy-dense technology, so it would make sense that a pack might have less energy in it, and less range as a result.

Second, the car is now listed as receiving only $3,750 of the US EV tax credit, like the Standard Range.

This is due to the way the Inflation Reduction Act tax credits are structured. To qualify, a car must be assembled in North America, but also must source 40% of its critical minerals from the US or free trade countries, and 50% of its battery components must be built in North America. These percentages will go up year by year, but they’re set at those levels for now.

Since the Model 3 Standard Range only qualifies for one of these two categories, it only gets half the credit. This is because it gets its LFP batteries from CATL, a Chinese battery supplier. The same goes for the new Long Range, and so we suspect it’s using the same battery supplier.

So between these two new pieces of information, it looks like Tesla might have introduced a new battery chemistry on the Long Range Model 3 today.

LFP batteries have some interesting pluses and minuses. As mentioned above, they are less energy dense but cheaper, but they also require no cobalt, which is a difficult mineral to get a hold of. They suffer from less degradation as well, which means your battery will stay healthier longer, though they do worse in very cold environments (so make sure you precondition your batteries, folks).

But this also creates a pricing dilemma (or perhaps an intentional product ladder) for buyers, because while the Long Range and Performance differ in upfront price by $6,000, the post-incentive pricing is only $2,250 more for the Performance. That’s a pretty small premium for more performance, particularly including the other upgrades.

We can see reasons that people might pick the Long Range still – preference for LFP batteries, no interest in performance upgrades, preference for the aero wheels (and associated slightly longer range) over the big 20″ performance wheels, and the $2,250 savings of course – but we could see a lot of people making the upgrade now that the price differential is smaller.

The new Model 3 Long Range is available for orders now, with deliveries starting in June – just one month from now.

This may not be the Model 3 refresh we were waiting for (codenamed “Highland”), but it’s definitely interesting to see more of CATL’s LFP cells in US-market Teslas.