After more than five years of anticipation, Tesla finally revealed its Model 3 last night. The Model 3 will be a landmark in the development of electrically charged vehicles regardless of whether it succeeds or fails.
Why is the Model 3 such a landmark? Because Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, has staked a multi-billion dollar claim on changing the way cars are made, charged and sold. The Model 3 is first car the company designed for the mainstream. In addition to changing the look, feel and range of electric cars, Tesla is aiming to change the way consumers purchase cars.
On the latter point, Tesla has greatly exceeded expectations. In less than 24 hours, Tesla had received 150,000 reservations for the Model 3. These paid reservations (consumers put down $1,000 to get in line) were retail sales rather than sales from dealerships. The reservations are a remarkable number, considering that none of the drivers have ever seen the vehicle in person, let alone taking a spin behind the wheel. The enthusiasm is palpable, but no one knows how many of the consumers who reserved the car will go on to actually purchase one. The Model 3 is allegedly set to be delivered in late 2017.
Specs & Design
As leaks predicted, the car is fast, going 0 to 60mph in just six seconds. The starting range is 215 miles. At higher versions of the car, the range will extend even further, with faster speeds. The company is adding supercharging capacity on all versions, which means it can charge anywhere there is electricity. Those who are attempting long distance travel will be able to charge on Tesla’s supercharger network. The supercharger will be built in even on the entry level standard. However, owners will likely be paying something to use the chargers.
Those who are looking for a more forward-thinking design than the Chevy Bolt and Toyota Prius will be pleased with the way the car looks. The first thing you will notice is that the Model 3 dropped the grille. This marks a sea-change in the way electric cars are style. Unlike combustion cars, electrics don’t need a cooling air / manifold air intakes. Unlike the Model S, Tesla’s first car, Tesla felt free to drop the fake grille panel. The rest of the hood seems to have an almost Porsche-like shape.
Much like the Model X and Model S, the Model 3 is wonderfully roomy inside. There are five seats and for once, the five seats should all be comfortable for riders. There is cargo space in the front and the rear (recall that without the gasoline engine, there is more room under the hood for other things.) True to its founding as a kind of Apple for automobiles, the car has a huge touchscreen that shows riders much more information than they are used to. Current speed, location, charging characteristics are just some of the specs shown on the touchscreen. The same screen also lets you run the navigation and entertainment aspects of the car.
The touchscreen may not please everyone, however. Gone are the traditional dashboard displays for gasoline and other gauges. Some drivers may not like seeing everything on a flat screen that resembles a large tablet.
Overall, Tesla is ecstatic by the early response. There are still crash tests and test drives to be performed, but for a 30-minute first-look performance, the company feels like it hit a home run. “We are simply awestruck by the demand surfacing for the Model 3,” wrote Stifel auto analyst James Albertine. “We had no idea the reservation orders would be this strong.”