In the greater scheme of things 2008 may have been a fairly insignificant year, with the Beijing Olympics and Cyclone Nargis capturing the news. Hidden away on page three of the 2008 news were the strides that science took when scientists extracted images directly from the brain for the first time and the long-awaited breakthrough in facial CGI… and of course, the production of the first Tesla Roadster EV.
Back then I thought this was another Greenie fad that I secretly hoped would never come to pass – after all it was being touted to replace that visceral icon of modern man; The mighty Internal Combustion Engine. At first, cost, charge times and limited range gave us petrolheads hope that the nerds in white coats were wrong. But unfortunately man’s inventiveness and a desire to turn a buck, have pushed back the limitations to the point where the new Tesla Model 3, which was launched on March 31st, elicited over 230,000 orders in the first 48 hours after launch!
The original Lotus based Roadster sold for over $100,000 compared to the average American new car cost of $27,958.00, and the 3’s proposed ticket of $35,000! Even at these crazy prices, Tesla was able to sell 2,418 units through September 2012 – in 2016 230,000 Greenies, Early Adopters and other technology geeks have already placed their $1,000 deposits; pushing the Tesla share price up by 3.4 percent to close at $237.59.
You might be thinking that this new bread and butter Tesla will be streets ahead of the original Roadster in performance: Well then, you might want to put away your 1000 quid!
According to the U.S. EPA, the Roadster can travel 393 km on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery pack, and can accelerate from 0 to 97 km/h in better than 3.9 seconds (depending on the mode)l. The Roadster’s efficiency, as of September 2008, was reported as 2.0 L/100 km. It uses 135 Wh/km (13.5 kW•h/100 km or 490 kJ/km) battery-to-wheel and has an average efficiency of 88%. Tesla documents a recharging rate of 90 km-of-range for each hour charging; a complete recharge from empty would require just under 4 hours.
According to Tesla CEO and EV Guru, Elon Musk, the Model 3 will seat five adults in comfort and have a minimum range of 350Km and a 0-to-97 time under 6 seconds in its cheapest iteration when it goes on sale at the end of 2017. However Musk has already headed off the performance junkies promising that Tesla would offer “much faster” versions of the Model 3. “At Tesla,” he said, “we don’t make slow cars.” My kinda man!
Despite the months of intense hype leading up to the Model 3’s unveiling, Tesla disclosed precious few details on pricing or content, saying it would share more information as time goes on. Musk, however, did say the Model 3 would come standard with hardware for Tesla’s Autopilot system and the ability to use Tesla’s network of proprietary Superchargers.
There are a large number of videos on YouTube about the Tesla Auto Pilot feature, many showing the amazing things Auto Pilot does. However, many Auto Pilot videos show drivers assuming the car is driving itself, and that they can completely ignore the car, take their hands off the wheel, read a book, play with the dashboard screen, etc. Unfortunately, the Auto Pilot feature does not support full self-driving capabilities because the technology is not yet mature enough for series production.
Whilst the styling of the Model 3 isn’t going to win Tesla any awards (As the S and X didn’t) the iterations of the front end are somewhat puzzling:
From a typical Tesla branded grill/ light configuration to a “toothless hag” Halloween addition that I certainly hope is only a styling exercise.
The Model 3 has front and rear trunks just like the Model S, so according to Tesla, it should provide more cargo space than any car in its class. Showing his South African roots, Musk says it can even fit a 7-foot surfboard.
The Tesla Model 3 will likely begin at around 180Kw while its top of the range model could spin out 300Kw. The new technology is the brainchild of Tesla’s British design principal Chris Porritt, who used to work with Aston Martin.
I believe the entry-level model will certainly be RWD, with the motor bolted in the rear, with the batteries located under the flooring, allowing for storage space in the nose. We can also expect a dual-motor AWD performance model, similar to the P85, at a later stage.
First impressions of the Tesla Model 3
Autoweek had a chance to go for a short ride in the Model 3, though the car wasn’t a base model. It was equipped with the optional air suspension and rode on big 235/35R20 tires up front and fat 275/30R20 rear tires, likely an upgrade over smaller standard tires.
Interestingly this particular Model 3 was a dual-motor model with all-wheel drive; it was certainly quick, pushing the occupants deep into their seats with the tree stump pulling torque that’s typical of all Teslas.
On the inside the dash is very low and provides an expansive view of the road ahead. There are no gauges in the Model 3 — just one huge, 15-inch touchscreen monitor that displays everything from speed to navigation and climate controls. There are no buttons anywhere on the dash, which is both clean looking and a bit strange at the same time.
The rear legroom and headroom are excellent. Practically the entire roof was glass on the test car, providing a wonderful view. Roof options will also include a metal panel over the driver.
After the $7,500 federal EV tax credit, a base Tesla Model 3 should cost right around $27,500. The Model 3’s chief competitor will be the Chevy Bolt. With the same credit, the 320Km-range Bolt will sell for $30,000 and reportedly hit 97Km/h in less then seven seconds. The Bolt gets the jump on the Model 3 in terms of timing. It will arrive by the end of 2016; a full year ahead of the Tesla. But the Bolt doesn’t have Tesla’s sleek design, techy cachet or built-in fan base.
The Model 3 is most certainly the most important car Tesla has ever produced: Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla sees sales volume from the Model 3 as key to its long-term success. It’s the first Tesla priced in a neighborhood that many new car buyers can afford.
And as long as the Model 3 launches without the delays and quality problems of the previous models, it will be key to the company meeting its goal of moving 500,000 cars a year by 2020.