Tesla bids to lure many more buyers into electric cars with its new, 5-passenger Model 3.
Unveiled March 31 during an invitation-only event at the automaker’s design studio in Hawthorne, CA, the long-anticipated EV will have a $35,000 starting price point before tax breaks, a single-charge range of at least 215 miles (346 km), 5-star safety ratings across the board and autonomous safety features, the automaker promises. Deliveries are to begin in late 2017.
The car will be able to use Tesla’s nearly 4,000 “destination” electric chargers at shopping malls, hotels, restaurants and other locations away from the owner’s home; that number is to quadruple by next year. The Model 3 also will have access to the automaker’s global network of superchargers, on track to grow from today’s 3,600 at more than 600 stations to more than 7,000 next year.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirms free supercharging will be standard with all Model 3s. The automaker says 30 minutes of supercharging generates 170 miles (274 km) of range, generally enough to reach the next station if needed.
Supercharging is vital to the Tesla experience, Musk says, because “it gives you freedom of travel.
“You will be able to go virtually anywhere,” he says, adding that because Tesla onboard chargers can adapt to any electricity supply internationally, “anywhere you go in the world, where there’s electricity you will be able to charge.”
The Model 3 has a front and rear trunk as well as elegantly rounded exterior contours and an interior that provides maximum legroom for front- and rear-seat passengers by pulling the car’s computer control screen out and away from the front console.
Guests cheer as Musk confirms a 7-ft. (2.1-m) surfboard could fit inside the car.
Advancing 'Secret Master Plan' for Global Sustainability
Musk explains the Model 3 is the next logical step of Tesla’s “secret master plan” to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. The automaker plans to build an estimated 500,000 of the vehicles yearly after production fully ramps up.
But with all of its features, will the Model 3 prove to be the industry’s entry-level EV that finally persuades consumers to abandon gasoline and diesel internal-combustion engines?
“Is it a game-changer? I don’t know,” EV advocate Will Beckett tells WardsAuto during a telephone interview shortly after the Model 3 presentation.
A former president and current membership coordinator for the 7,000-member nonprofit Electric Auto Assn., established in 1967 to promote the use of electric energy rides, Beckett is one of California’s earliest adopters of electric propulsion.
He says the Model 3 is a far superior vehicle to gas-powered models as well as other manufacturers’ EVs, noting Tesla reports an estimated 115,000 would-be owners slapped down deposits on Model 3s within the first 24 hours of when the automaker started accepting reservations.
“I don’t know how many cars can do that,” Beckett says. Musk and Tesla thus far have shown their predictions of the company’s future success are not “pie-in-the-sky or pipe dreams,” he says. “The guy has clearly delivered.”
On the other hand, even though the Model 3 as unveiled Thursday likely would be his first choice as-is, it would be a plus were Tesla to further cut the price tag or find a way to add more miles per charge or both.
First-adopters and green-power enthusiasts might be willing to buy EVs for the technology’s sake while consumers from the wider community will remain primarily focused on price and be swayed by perceived opportunities to save money, he notes.
When it’s less expensive to buy an EV than an ICE-powered vehicle, buyers will make the switch to electric and never look back, Beckett says. “That would be the real game-changer.”