One down, at least 499,999 more to go.
In Fremont, California, electric carmaker Tesla held an event to handover the first of their Model 3s to a proud owner. The company and its CEO also took the opportunity to go into more detail about what is arguably their most important product to date as well as their plans for it in the near term.
For example, Tesla reiterated its promise to meet the massive number of pre-orders made after the Model 3 was announced (over 500,000), with the bulk of those US$1,000 booking fees paid online from customers all over the world. Elon Musk, their chief executive, confirmed that the Model 3 was indeed already being built at their new ‘Gigafactory’ in the neighbouring state of Nevada, with production capacity expected to increase dramatically over the coming year. Roughly 100 units of the Model 3 are due to roll off the line in August before ballooning to 1,500 in September.
By December 2017, the factory output for the Model 3 is slated to surge to 20,000 whereupon the numbers are expected to plateau and production of right hand drive units will be worked into the schedule as most initial units are destined for owners in North America. Markets such as the UK, Australia, and parts of Asia that drive on the left can only expect the car’s arrival in 2019.
With over half-a-million orders before a single production Model 3 was produced, scaling up to this output capacity will be a real test of Tesla’s operations and logistical mettle. However, Musk is fairly confident every pre-order will be honoured, with all of those deliveries made before the end of 2018.
On to the actual car, which naturally got more attention than usual during the high exposure event, Tesla will be offering the Model 3, their most affordable model yet, in two variations from launch: a standard and ‘Long Range’ version, the former starting at US$35,000 (as initially advertised). The latter, though, will be priced $9,000 more.
Obviously, the ‘Long Range’ will have a higher capacity battery that will be able to keep it running to a maximum of nearly 500km before puttering out, while top speed of stands at 225km/h. By comparison, the standard Model 3 can store enough juice to take it around 355km before needing a recharge and to a top speed of 210km/h. Acceleration times, like the exact battery capacities, haven’t been entirely confirmed, but both should sprint between 5.1 to 5.6 seconds, depending on configuration.
Inside, the Model 3 clearly has minimalism in mind, using a single 15-inch widescreen central touch panel to display and control all in-car functions. There are no analogue gauges, no visible air conditioning vents, no head-up display, and barely any physical buttons. It certainly does look futuristic, even austere, with the single strip of pale bamboo running across the dash and a glass roof illuminating the leather upholstery. The lack of instrumentation and driver-facing controls is congruent with the idea that the Model 3 was also developed with autonomous driving in mind, taking out any real need to keep a close eye on that sort of information anyway.
Tesla also confirmed that the Model 3 does not qualify for unlimited use of the company’s growing Supercharger network to more quickly refill depleted batteries. Instead, owners will be able to use said high-speed charging stations in a pay-per-use capacity.