Tesla plans to build a 'Space Bus.' What's that?

The latest phase of Tesla's 'Master Plan' already includes a semi-truck, autonomous bus, pickup truck, and small crossover. But CEO Elon Musk is hinting at yet another new vehicle project. 

Stephen Lam/Reuters/File
A Tesla Motors Model X electric sports-utility vehicle opens its falcon wing doors on stage during a presentation in Fremont, Calif.

In his recently-released "Master Plan Part Deux" for Tesla Motors, CEO Elon Musk specifically mentioned a handful of new products.

They included a semi truck and an autonomous bus that would mark Tesla's entry into the commercial-vehicle market, as well as a pickup truck and a small crossover to expand its passenger-vehicle lineup.

Musk subsequently took to what seems to be his favorite forum—Twitter—to confirm a couple of details about one of those models, and hint at yet another new-vehicle project.

The small crossover mentioned in the "master plan" will be based on the Model 3, and will be called Model Y, Musk tweeted in response to a Road & Track article.

Musk also confirmed plans for a Tesla "minibus" based on the larger Model X afterJalopnik published an article theorizing about such a vehicle.

"The Tesla Minibus will be built on a Model X chassis. People density potential is surprisingly high," Musk tweeted in response to the Jalopnik article.

Musk has referred to the vehicle as a "Bus/Minibus/Spacebus."

One word Musk almost certainly will not use to describe this vehicle is "minivan," because that would likely compromise Tesla's carefully-cultivated image of coolness.

Whatever segment the company classifies it in, a Model X-based minibus could be a rival to an anticipated all-electric revival of the classic Volkswagen Type 2 busJalopnikspeculated.

There have been numerous rumors about an electric VW bus, and the company unveiled the Budd-e electric van concept at CES earlier this year.

The Budd-e was based on Volkswagen's new MEB platform for compact electric cars, meaning a production version would likely be smaller than a Model X-based bus.

The Tesla minibus could also support the company's plans to make car sharing a major part of its business.

In the second master plan, posted on the company's blog, Musk said Tesla will make future self-driving cars the basis of a car-sharing service, with a fleet comprised of both customer and company-owned vehicles.

Under the proposed scheme, Tesla owners could rent out their cars when not needed, and Tesla would provide additional cars to create an adequate-sized fleet.

With its greater passenger and cargo capacity, a minibus could be quite useful in such a service.

Of course, Tesla has many projects already underway, so it's unclear when the company would actually get around to launching this new vehicle.

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