As anyone who has been following Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] for any length of time will tell you, the California automaker has a habit of rolling out upgrades to its Tesla Roadster, Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X electric cars when those upgrades are ready for prime time.
Completely contrary to the usual auto industry practice of waiting until the start of a new model year to bring out improvements and upgrades to a model, Tesla’s “ship it when it’s ready” philosophy has lead to some pretty pleasant surprises for Tesla fans over the years. These have included sudden battery pack capacity upgrades (as was the case with the Tesla Model S 90D and 70D) as well as the sudden rollout of new features such as AutoPilot.
But now one well-known engineer-cum-hacker by the name of Jason Hughes from North Carolina says he’s got proof Tesla’s next big upgrade is waiting in the wings: a 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack option to the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X which will increase range per charge. While Hughes’ initial discovery was made after decoding some encrypted data discovered while jacking into the networking port of a Tesla Model S, further digging resulted in Hughes finding a pre-made Tesla icon inside the car’s operating system displaying the P100D name.
No stranger to how Tesla makes its cars, Hughes has been hacking Teslas for some time. Last year, he began a mammoth project at his home in North Carolina, turning two salvaged Tesla Model S 85 battery packs into a monster 191 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion backup battery system for the 44. 4 kilowatts of photovoltaic panels on his property. If that wasn’t enough, he’s been spending the past few months trying to pry into the inner workings of the Tesla Model S operating system, using both a salvaged Tesla Model S computer system and his own car to help him peek at Tesla’s secrets.
Essentially, Hughes is testing Tesla’s operating system for security flaws, while simultaneously trying to see what the electric automaker has in store. It’s no different to the thousands of software engineers and white hat experts who peek inside the latest Apple iOS updates to see if there’s a new phone coming out soon.
It was during one of these sessions that Hughes discovered a new hexadecimal code hiding inside Tesla’s latest update, specifically where values pertaining to vehicle model identifications are kept.
During his ongoing project, Hughes has been sharing his finding with forum members at the Tesla Motors Club. This time however, he went directly to Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Twitter.
— Jason Hughes (@wk057) March 4, 2016
His fellow Tesla enthusiasts over at the Tesla Motors Club didn’t take long to see the tweet or decode the value contained therein. Decrypted using a fairly insecure SHA256 algorithm, the hexadecimal code Hughes discouvered translates to “P100D.”
If we assume Tesla is following its usual nomenclature, that translates to a Performance model Tesla with a 100 kilowatt-hour battery pack and dual motor drive.
Naturally, Tesla has not confirmed or denied the discovery, but we have to say that the prospect of a Tesla Model S P100D or Tesla Model X P100D isn’t exactly a surprise to us. That’s because Tesla CEO Elon Musk has talked about Tesla’s roadmap for battery capacity upgrades several times in the past. Simply put, Musk has predicted that Tesla will on average improve battery pack energy density by about ten percent per year, equating to a five percent battery pack range increase per year.
That yardstick would suggest a 100 kilowatt-hour Tesla pack would be hitting the market by 2017, but as we all know, if Tesla has already managed to develop a 100 kWh battery pack, it isn’t going to wait until 2017 to bring that pack to market. As for range? We’d guess a P100D, assuming that Tesla manages to keep the weight down, will be somewhere in the region of 300 miles per charge in real-world conditions.
But here’s where things get a little bizarre. After the news of Hughes’ discovery broke on Friday, he reported on Saturday that he thought Tesla was trying to downgrade his car’s operating system.
“Looks like I’ve definitely pissed off someone at Tesla now,” he wrote over at the Tesla Motors Club. “They used some method I was unaware of in another process to go in and delete the pending 2.13.77 update from my car. Basically they sent the car some command that told it to restart the updater, then the updater restarted and queried the firmware service, which, to its surprise, no longer had the update for me.”
Taking to Twitter again, Hughes asked Elon Musk directly if something was awry.
— Jason Hughes (@wk057) March 5, 2016
Musk was quick to respond, letting Hughes know he wasn’t behind what happened while at the same time paying the white hat a compliment.
— Jason Hughes (@wk057) March 5, 2016
It’s not clear what happened with Hughes’ car or the missing update, but we are eager to see just what the P100D will be capable of if indeed that’s the car Tesla is bringing to market soon.
While it’s good to see Tesla lead the field with continuing battery pack upgrades however, we’re more eager to see what effect the suspected battery pack upgrade will do to the as-yet unrevealed Tesla model 3.
Is Tesla managing to improve battery pack capacity at a far quicker speed than it has in the past? And if so, does this mean the Tesla Model 3 will be able to go further than initially promised?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
[Hat-Tip: Brian Henderson]
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