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Saturday, December 30, 2023

Tesla's 2023 Year in Review

Tesla Vehicle Line-up 2023

2023 was the year that Tesla turned 20; it was also the Year of the Tesla Truck (both Cyber and Semi). The first Cybertruck deliveries were kicked off in November and the Semi (officially launched in December of 2022) was put through its paces in 2023 as Pepsi-Fritos loaded them up and put the pedal to the metal.

Trucks were not the only Tesla vehicle news for the year though. Model 3 had its most extensive revamp ever with "Project Highland". Tesla partnered with tribes to dance around arcane state protectionist laws, an old Tesla founder returns as a new board member, and more. Let's look at each of these 2023 events:  

Cybertruck Launch 

Cybertruck was the biggest Tesla event of 2023 and we'll dive right into this one first. On November 30th, Tesla held the Cybertruck Launch event. The first owners took delivery of their vehicles on stage in Austin with crowds of onlookers in-person and online. 

Throughout 2023, the Cybertruck made news over and over. A glimpse of the frunk, the interior, exterior updates, the new user interface... Videos of four-wheel steering and crab walking, news.

The "No Flipping" clause in the Cybertruck purchase contract threatened to penalize violators $50,000 or more and never sell them another Tesla for the rest of their lives. This clause had the internet in a tizzy and customer backlash caused Tesla to remove it. However, it came back once again for the Foundation series Cybertrucks. 


Inspired by the paintless Cybertruck, Tesla started offering wraps and paint protection films. Black, white, or clear wraps are available for Cybertruck and six colors for the rest of the vehicle lineup. 

Tesla has some fun with Cybertruck wraps in 2023. They dressed one up as a Ford F-150 and another as a Toyota Tundra.

Cybertruck variants at launch

At the delivery event, final pricing, availability, and product details were announced. Three models were announced: single-motor RWD, dual-motor AWD, and a tri-motor AWD called the "Cyberbeast." Soon after the event a fourth variant was announced, the Foundation Series. This is a limited edition Cyberbeast that comes at a $20,000 premium and adds FSD and the special laser etchings seen above.

Compared to the 2019 unveiling of the Cybertruck many reservation holders were disappointed by the price increase compared to the more affordable $39,000. 

Range extender 

The range extender is an optional battery pack that increases the Cybertruck's range by 120–130 miles, taking the dual motor AWD range up to an estimated 470 miles. The range extender looks like a toolbox taking up about a third of the bed space. If you plan on towing any significant distance, this is something that you should consider. The exciting part of this is the possibility of range extenders being integrated into future accessories (trailers, campers...). 

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The ramp starts

As I write this, Cybertrucks are being delivered in California and Texas. There are about 2 million people that put down a $100 reservation. Many of them are eagerly awaiting there chance to configure and order. Currently, Tesla is making fewer than 100 trucks per week. Next year this production rate will grow and grow as manufacturing processes are improved and sped up.

48 Volts and Ethernet "Etherloop"

Before we leave this topic, we have to cover these two industry-changing Cybertruck innovations. 

Cars and trucks have been using 12 Volt batteries since the mid-1950s. The switch to 12 Volts (from 6V) was due to the evolution of car designs and features that required more power.

Today, we have more electrical demands on our vehicles than ever before. Automakers have occasionally released 48V prototypes, but they have never been able to bring the 48V architecture to market. Bringing a new architecture to market is not easy.

For 48V to work properly, all the accessories have to be designed for it. Every wiper motor, seat motor, light, computer, ABS, air bag controller... There are hundreds of components, made by hundreds of suppliers that have to be redesigned, tested, certified... 

Tesla was willing to do the hard work needed to bring 48V to market. They worked with their suppliers. When a part needed to be redesigned, Tesla would send engineers to work with the suppliers. It's a win-win. The supplier gets Tesla engineering to help update their product and Tesla gets a design that they know will meet their needs. 

If Tesla cannot find a supplier for a part that they need, they will bring the task in-house. They are not afraid of vertical integration

Now with all of the parts that they need working with 48V, how do you get that power to each of the components. In the Cybertruck there are 386 parts that need to be connected to aux power. The answer was to redesign the communications network in the vehicle and use those same connections for both communications and power delivery. Enter Ethernet. 

Today, vehicles typically use Controller Area Network (CAN) bus. The maximum data rate of CAN bus is typically 1 Megabit per second (Mbps). Tesla chose to replace the CAN bus with a 1 Gigabit Ethernet network. That's 1000 times faster than the CAN bus. And this same Ethernet network can deliver the needed 48V with a feature called Power-Over-Ethernet (POE). This reduces the number of wires that have to go to each of the 386 electronic components in Cybertruck. It also means the telemetry for all of the components can be delivered faster. 

Tesla refers to this as an Etherloop because they wire the Ethernet switches together in a loop with redundant bidirectional connections for fault tolerance. These higher voltage and faster data rates will be the new industry standard. Automakers have wanted both of these features for over a decade, but they had no leadership that could make it happen. Now that Tesla has cracked the code, others will be fast followers. 

Wrapping up Cybertruck 

This only scratches the surface of the Cybertruck (not an easy task). I'm sure there will be plenty more to discuss about the Cybertruck in 2024. 


In September, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) conducted a study as part of their "Run on Less" program. This program tests electric semi trucks in real-world conditions with all results released in real time. A Tesla Semi truck traveled over 1,000 miles in a single day during these tests. This is something that many experts called impossible.

Jay Leno took the Semi out for a spin with Tesla's Senior Manager of Semi-Truck Engineering, Dan Priestley. Priestley explained how Tesla has iterated the semi over the last year. How they've collected data, talked to drivers, and used all of this feedback to make improvements to both the hardware and software in the semi.  

In October of 2023, Tesla began hiring to increase Semi production. 

Model 3 Highland

The Model 3 was introduced in 2017. With its sleek design, excellent performance, and more affordable price (compared to Model S and X), it quickly became the best selling EV in history. That title was soon overtaken by the younger sibling (Model Y), but more on that later. In 2023, Tesla offered a new version of Model 3 that added range and upgraded interior. This new version of Model 3 was codenamed "Project Highland." 

Highland offers significant chassis and suspension upgrades. The long range highland boasts an impressive range of up to 353 miles. The minimalist interior design, characterized by clean lines and the absence of traditional buttons and knobs persists and colorful LED ambient lighting is added.

Highland is shipping in China and Europe and is expected to launch in the North American market in early 2024. 

Model Y - Best Selling Car In The World

In 2023, the Model Y became the first all-electric vehicle to wear the crown of the world's best-selling car. As of July 2023, the Model Y edged out the Toyota Corolla for the top spot in new car sales worldwide.

5 Million EVs Produced

Speaking of production and sales, in September of 2023, Tesla announced that they had produced their 5 millionth EV. That's 5 million vehicles without tailpipes. 5 million cars that won't pollute as they wait in line at the after school pick up. 5 million cars that won't support the fossil fuel, drill and burn ecosystem.

50 Thousand NACS of Power- J3400

Tesla installed their 50 thousandth Supercharger in September of 2023. This network allows drivers to take their EVs on road trips. The Tesla network is by far the most complete and reliable charging network out there. 

Ford, GM, and others figured out that they could not compete with the Tesla network and their best course of action was to abandon the failing CCS standard and join the Tesla network. As you can see in the image above Honda, Kia, Jaguar, BMW, and others quickly followed. Stellantis and Mazda are among the few hold outs, but by 2025, if you want to sell an EV in North America, it better have a NACS connector, or it will be be considered by most EV shoppers.  

The automotive standards body known as SAE ratified NACS as J3400. This will make NACS stations eligible for National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) incentives.

Tribal Partnerships

Tribal lands are part of sovereign nations which exist within the borders of the U.S. Currently, 39 states include at least one tribal nation. As sovereign nations, tribal lands are not subject to state and local jurisdiction or restrictions.

Tesla has been partnering with tribal nations since 2021 to build showrooms, stores, or service centers on tribal lands. Some states have protectionist laws that require vehicles to be sold via a middleman (dealership) system. Tesla does not use dealerships. Instead, they sell direct to customers. Building on tribal lands allows Tesla sidestep these arcane laws. 

In 2023, Tesla opened two more locations on tribal lands. Tesla's tribal partnerships now include: 

  • First Nation of Nambé Pueblo in New Mexico at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino
  • Santa Ana Pueblo: A partnership that builds on tribal land
  • Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Entertainment Complex

Master Plan 3.0

In April of 2023 Tesla released their Master Plan 3.0, subtitled "Sustainable Energy for All of Earth."

This is an outline for moving to a world of abundant, pollution-free, energy. 


In September of 2022, the world got to see the first wobbly steps of Tesla's robot named Optimus. In 2023, Tesla made great strides (literally and figuratively) in the Optimus program. The perception system was demonstrated with the bot sorting blocks and picking up eggs. The walking speed is much faster and looks much more natural. 

JB's Return

JB Straubel is one of the founders of Tesla. He was the CTO until he left Tesla in 2019 to found and run a battery recycling company called Redwood Materials. In 2023, JB took a seat on Tesla's board of directors.


Tesla stock started the year at $108 per share and it is ending the year $248. That 230% growth for 2023. 

Powerwall 3

In September of 2023, Tesla launched Powerwall 3. The battery portion of Powerwall 3 is very similar to Powerwall 2; however, Powerwall 3 adds a fully integrated solar inverter. Whereas Powerwall 2 could only be AC connected, Powerwall 3 can be AC or DC connected; allowing Powerwall 3 to be more efficient in some configurations. If you are retrofitting batteries to an existing solar PV system, you'll want to use Powerwall 2s, but if you are installing a new solar and battery system, Powerwall 3 is the way to go since you won't have to buy a separate PV inverter.

Wrapping It Up 

Above, we covered that Tesla is now offering wraps, but it's time to wrap this up. As every year has been for Tesla, 2023 was an exciting one to follow. They have accomplished things that legacy car companies would have never attempted. They are the vanguard of the future of the auto industry. While other car companies are announcing that they are slowing their EV programs, Tesla relentlessly pushes forward. I have no doubt that 2024 will be equally as exciting.

I am long Tesla

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