Battery and electric car manufacturer Tesla seems to have a permanent seat at the front of the hype train, so in a year with as many ups and downs as 2017's seen, you can imagine it's been a pretty intense roller coaster ride.
Love it or hate it, from shaking up the entire trucking industry to getting a smackdown from a major consumer research publication, it's been interesting to watch the sparks fly, so we've rounded up the five most interesting Tesla moments of 2017.
Tesla Semi shakes up the trucking industry
One of Tesla's most anticipated announcements of 2017 was, ironically, for a vehicle that the vast majority of Teslaphiles will never get a chance to drive. Dubbed the Tesla Semi, the brand debuted its first full-electric commercial truck at an event in November, electrifying the trucking industry in the process.
The Semi will boast a cruising range of 300 or 500 miles, depending on the size of the battery pack chosen, and is powered by the same motor that you'll find in the Model 3 sedan, only the Semi has four of them, one for each of the four driven wheels. It's expected to start at $150,000 for the 300-mile model when it hits the road in 2019.
Tesla's new Semi doesn't burn a drop of diesel and runs completely emissions-free. The lack of smokestacks should be better for the environment, but the Semi also boasts lower operating and maintenance costs, promising potential savings in the tens of thousands of dollars every year over a comparable diesel truck, making it a very tempting gamble for the trucking industry.
Surprise Roadster revival
Musk's "one more thing" at the tail end of the Semi event was a surprise announcement of the new Tesla Roadster.
The new Roadster will feature three electric motors and enough torque and grip to make a zero-to-60 mph sprint in just 1.9 seconds before blurring through the quarter mile in just 8.9 seconds. Take it easy on the accelerator and the 200kWh battery pack should provide enough juice to cruise for up to a claimed 620 miles.
But such insane performance is going to cost you. The Roadster will cost $250,000 if you want one of the first 1,000 "Founders Series" reservations, or $200,000 with a $50,000 deposit to get to the end of the line when it begins production in 2020.
Telsa co-founder and CEO Elon Musk even joked that a new Roadster would be part of the payload on one of his other projects: theheading to Mars. At least, we think he was joking...
Model 3 'production hell'
Tesla generated a lot of hype and drummed up a lot of deposits and reservations for the aforementioned Semi and Roadster. Hopefully, all of that raised capital will help the automaker actually get its Model 3 affordable EV out of the door after a 2017 wracked with production delays.
After an event in July 2017 hailing the first production Model 3s rolling off of the assembly line, the automaker is still struggling to get the car into the hands of the public. Deliveries have been made to Tesla employees -- at least one of which made its way onto Craigslist with a $150,000 asking price -- but the vast majority of the nearly 500,000 reservation holders have been left twiddling their thumbs for months.
The reasons for the delays are complicated, ranging from production bottlenecks to personnel issues and other complications that have pushed production back into 2018. However, just last month, the Tesla opened up its Model 3 configurator to the first non-employee reservation holders, perhaps signaling the beginning of the end for its "production hell."
Model X takedown
As disappointing as the Model 3's production issues were, perhaps even worse were the blows that the Model X SUV experienced in 2017.
In October, Tesla announced a voluntary recall for about 11,000 Model X SUVs due to second-row seats that might not stay in place during a crash. On the bright side, Tesla discovered the problem during internal testing rather than finding out the hard way.
Just a few days later, Consumer Reports downgraded the Model X to dead last on its list of 10 Least Reliable Cars. That's gotta sting. CR's report was based on a survey of owners, focusing on "17 trouble areas, from nuisances -- such as squeaky brakes and broken interior trim -- to major bummers, such as out-of-warranty transmission repairs or trouble with four-wheel-drive systems."
Tesla fired back that stating that CR's survey was woefully out-of-date, lagging months behind the most recent improvements made to the Model X, but alas, by then the damage had been done.
The Gigafactory gears up
Perhaps Tesla's biggest win of 2017 was its first one. In January, the massive Gigafactory battery production plant started mass-producing battery cells. Given that pretty much everything Tesla does relies on batteries, from electric cars to Powerwalls to powering entire cities, this was sort of a tent-pole moment for the brand.
Through economies of scale, the Gigafactory is a major step toward significantly reducing the cost of batteries, which it will need to do if it hopes to turn a profit on all of those Model S, Roadsters and Semi preorders it's lined up.
The increased battery production capacity has also fueled a few of Tesla's more ambitious projects, including building the world's largest lithium ion battery in South Australia and bringing solar power to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.