For better or worse, Tesla may have invented a category of cars that slots between new and used. Its online inventory of vehicles lists several 2021 examples of the Model 3 that are equipped with a battery pack built as far back as 2017 and that has degraded accordingly.
Buyers can’t order a nearly-new EV with an older battery through the company’s online configurator; instead, they need to browse Tesla’s inventory of new and used cars. Enter a valid zip code, tick the “Model 3” and “new” boxes, and you’ll notice that some of the results come with a warning: “range figures may be up to 12% lower due to battery age.” This only applies to 2021 cars that are labeled as new; click the “used” box and there’s no mention of battery degradation — which certainly doesn’t mean that the battery hasn’t lost part of its capacity.
“This vehicle was built with a battery pack manufactured as early as 2017. While this pack was brand new when the vehicle was built, the cells have reduced capacity due to their age and you can expect up to 12% reduction in range from current production specifications,” the company notes. How a car titled as a 2021 model ended up with a battery pack manufactured in 2017 remains a rather enigmatic point.
One explanation floated by The Drive is that the new-old Model 3s are labeled as demo vehicles, meaning they were likely used for test drives, and Tesla could have installed older batteries in the cars it sets asides for its stores. The publication adds that these EVs may also be ex-engineering test mules or cars that customers declined. Regardless, it sounds like Tesla is sitting on an inventory of old, unused batteries.
Tesla’s disclaimer and its definition of the term “brand new” are murky. What’s made clear is that the pack was “brand new” when the vehicle was built. And yet, it was manufactured “as early as 2017” and it’s installed a car titled as a 2021 model, so one presumably not made in 2017. Should we assume that “built and stored for a couple of years” means “brand new” in Tesla-speak, and not “new-old-stock”?
Tesla hasn’t commented on the report.