Tesla is gearing up for its biggest-ever unveiling: the Model 3, an affordable electric car that’s supposed to take the company from 50,000 vehicle sales last year to 500,000 in 2020. Here’s what we know so far:
There will only be one new car (for now).
Despite some speculation to the contrary, there will only be one car unveiled in March: the Model 3 sedan. Rumors have circulated that Tesla might also unveil a Model Y crossover vehicle, but according to people familiar with Tesla’s launch plans, this event will focus on the Model 3 exclusively.
This is the big one.
It’s “going to be probably the most profound car that we make,” Elon Musk said. “It will be a very compelling car at an affordable price.” The Model 3 is now the company’s top priority.
It’s on schedule.
The unveiling of the Model 3 will take place in March, and pre-orders will begin immediately. Production will start in 2017.
The price is right.
The base model will cost $35,000, reportedly before government incentives, which in the U.S. range from $7,500 to more than $13,000, depending on the state.
Expect fewer whistles.
The Model 3 is “meant to be a slightly smaller version of the Model S,” Musk said in Hong Kong this week, “and it won’t have quite as many bells and whistles.” In a November 2014 call with investors, Musk said the Model 3 would be about 20 percent smaller. Given the room freed up by the electric motor and Tesla’s sub-floor batteries, it should still have more storage than a typical compact car.
Bells and whistles. Photographer: Valentin Flauraud/Bloomberg
Expect a range of at least 200 miles per charge, possibly more. The recently announced 2017 Chevy Bolt will have a 60 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. If Tesla offers the same sized pack, it’s range could beat the 200-mile mark considerably, based on the performance of other Teslas and the smaller size of Model 3.
New factories are coming soon.
In addition to the flagship Fremont Factory in California and the battery Gigafactory in Nevada, the company aims to open additional Model 3 factories in China and Europe as soon as 2018.
This will be Tesla’s third auto platform: the Roadster, the Model S and X, and now the Model 3. To make the Model 3 affordable and adaptable, Tesla had to start from the ground up. “For better or worse, most of model 3 has to be new,” Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel said in October. “It’s a new battery architecture, it’s a new motor technology, brand new vehicle structure. It’s a lot of work.”
Hands off my Tesla. Photographer: David Paul Morris
The Model 3 will probably come equipped with the sensors for autonomous driving, even if Tesla requires additional fees to activate them. This week Musk predicted that in 10 to 15 years, all new cars will be autonomous. He also said roughly a third of people will forgo car ownership in favor of shared car services like Uber, or the Tesla equivalent (don’t call it Tuber).
The Model 3 will have a warranty similar to that for the Model S, including an 8-year, infinite mile transferable warranty on the battery pack and drive unit, Musk said on Twitter in August 2014. That’s important after Consumer Reports dinged the company last year for reports of excessive drivetrain problems.
About that Model Y.
We know from a slide deck used by Tesla’s Straubel that the company is planning a “Model 3 Sedan & Crossover.” The two vehicles will probably share the same chassis, battery, and motor platform. But the sedan will come first.
X, Y, truck?
Musk also wants a truck. It’s probably next on his list after the Model 3 sedan and crossover. “I think it is quite likely we will do a truck in the future,” Musk said this week in Hong Kong. “I think it’s sort of a logical thing for us to do.”
The Gigafactory is key.
Tesla’s multibillion dollar battery factory in Nevada will be crucial for meeting Model 3 delivery demands. Batteries are the biggest single cost of production, and their price and supply are currently the biggest limiting factor for EV growth, according to Straubel.
Don’t call it the Model III.
The car’s logo may be three parallel bars, but don’t call it the Model III, Musk told followers on Twitter. The bars should be horizontal, similar to the stylized “E” in the Tesla logo. That’s no mistake; Musk originally wanted to call it the Model E, in order to spell out “SEX” and then “SEXY” with his full lineup of Model names. He had to settle with “Model 3″ because Ford wouldn’t give up the trademark it owns.
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