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Tesla’s US$35,000 Model 3 won’t ship until late 2017, yet it still makes other EVs nervous

Melissa Riofrio | April 4, 2016
Tesla fans waited patiently for the reveal, and now they have to wait for the car, due in late 2017. Probably.

Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3 won’t be out until late 2017, and yet its reveal Thursday night at the company’s Hawthorne, California design studio put all other electric vehicles on notice. “We have an amazing product to show you tonight. I think you’re going to be blown away,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised. Unless something even more amazing comes out in the next year, the Model 3 will be the EV to beat.

Full specs were not immediately available, but here’s what we do know:

The base model will cost $35,000 before any federal or state incentives. As with other Tesla models, you’ll be able to choose pricier upgrades.

The EV range will be at least 215 miles, Musk said—a little more than the expected EV range for the Chevrolet Bolt. The 200-mile mark is widely considered to be the point at which people lose EV range anxiety. Musk still seemed hungry for more: “These are minimum numbers; we hope to exceed them.” The cars will have access to Tesla’s supercharging network.

Why this matters: The Model 3 emerges at a crucial time for electric vehicles. EV drivers have suffered long enough with cars that last 100 miles or less. The Model 3's 215-mile range and reasonably affordable price could make EVs appealing to more people. It remains to be seen, however, whether those people will wait for the Model 3 or buy the Chevrolet Bolt, which will be first out of the gate later this year..

A Tesla through and through

Musk emphasized that the Model 3 was every inch a Tesla despite being smaller in size. (Dimensions were not available, but the photos indicate a shorter nose and tail than the Model S.) For instance, it will go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. “At Tesla we don’t make slow cars,” Musk emphasized. The Model 3 will also be very safe, Musk assured us: “not just five-star on average, but five-star in every category.”

tesla model 3 press event safety cage shot
Tesla Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the Model 3 would have five-star safety ratings across the board.

The Model 3 will seat five adults comfortably—and the fifth seat will be welcoming, Musk said, not punishing, as it can often be in compact cars. Musk described how the Model 3’s designers compressed the instrument panel and moved the front seats forward to give the rear passenger area more legroom. The rear roof’s continuous pane of glass also adds to the roomy feeling, Musk said.

With the same front and rear trunk layout as the larger Model S, the Model 3 will have more cargo capacity than any car in its class. Musk even addressed a customer query, confirming that the car could hold a seven-foot surfboard inside.


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