Tesla Motors on Friday (Australian time) unveiled the Tesla Model 3, the electric vehicle that it hopes will hit the “mass-market” and lifts its total sales to 500,000 units a year by 2020 – a ten-fold increase on its current production.
This was no April Fool’s release. It was actually unveiled at the company’s California headquarters in the evening of March 31 local time. The event was broadcast live on the net, along with an option to reserve a vehicle, even though it will not go into production until late 2017.
“You will not be able to get a better car for that price,” Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk said of the $US35,000 vehicle. And punters seem to agree. Musk said that 115,000 reservations had already been received in the first 24 hours, and that’s before any of them had seen the vehicle.
Musk said the company had slowly transitioned to low-volume, high price and high performance cars, to “show the world that an electric vehicle can be the best car”, through to an SUV and now, a lower priced high volume vehicle.
The Model 3 looks similar to the Model S, although it will cost less than half the price.
“It is very important to accelerate transition to sustainable transport,” Musk said in his opening remarks. “This is important for future of the world,” he added, pointing to record high Co2 levels in the atmosphere, a sharp rise in average global temperatures last year, and the health impacts of vehicle emissions.
Musk said the Model 3 will fit 5 adults. The instrument panel has been compressed, and the front seats brought “a little further forward”. The rear roof pane is “one big piece of glass”. And it will fit a 7 foot surfboard inside, Musk said. (Ed: My Peugeot 207 wagon fits a 9’6″ surfboard inside, I should point out).
The high efficiency electric motor provides zero to 60 mph (100kmh) acceleration in less than six seconds. It is equipped with electric all-wheel drive.
Musk said the development costs and learnings of the Model S and the Model X are key for bringing down the cost of the Model 3.
Tesla has sold 100,000 units of its upmarket, high-performance Model S sedan, and is bringing its vulcan-winged Model X into production as well. The Model 3 will be priced at $US35,000 in the US, less various tax incentives.
In Australia, the price has yet to be released, but given exchange rate and delivery charges, it could be less than $A50,000. A recent Australian Tax Office ruling allowing users to claim the full 66c/per kilometre travelled in electric vehicles for business use will also add to the economics of this and other EVs.
The Model 3 has already attracted significant interest in Australia, with hundreds of people queuing at Tesla stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, even before they had seen the design and features of the new vehicle.
By the time production of the cheaper Model 3 is in full swing, Tesla’s so called “gigafatory” in Nevada will be in full swing, producing battery storage for its EVs and for household and grid applications. In 2012, when the Model S was released, production was just over 3,000 vehicles.
The company now has 3,600 superchargers world-wide, and this will be doubled by the end of next year, Musk said, and the number of outlets will also more than double that to 441 locations.