At 8:30 (or so) Pacific Daylight Time last night, Elon Musk took the stage to introduce the Tesla Model 3 to a group of Tesla owners and media. He began by recapping the company’s “Secret Master Plan” from 2006, which included the small-batch Roadster, the luxury Model S (but not the Model X SUV, which is kind of a side project), and the mass market, affordable Model 3.
Musk said he is “fairly confident” that the new model will be rolling off the assembly line and onto roads in late 2017. That earned him a laugh from the Tesla-savvy crowd who has seen many a deadline whoosh past the Silicon Valley-based manufacturer.
How affordable will the new mid-size all-electric sedan be? $35,000 for the base model, which will do 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds and have an EPA-rated range of at least 215 miles. There will of course be trim levels above the basics that get you farther, faster. But these are the minimum numbers Tesla plans to hit. Also, every model, from the entry level up, will have standard autopilot hardware and safety features.
Every Model 3 will have standard supercharging as well. Musk said during the live-streamed unveiling event that there are currently 3600 superchargers worldwide, and by the end of 2017 – when the Model 3 will need charging – there will be double that number installed. Musk also said the current number of destination chargers will quadruple by the time the new car is ready for the road.
All those chargers will be needed, because production of the Model 3 will ramp up to half a million cars a year, a far cry from the 500 Roadsters the fledgling company could produce nearly a decade ago. Tesla’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, is already up and running to create all the lithium-ion batteries required for such a huge fleet of EVs. The facility will produce more lithium-ion batteries than all other battery factories combined, according to Musk.
The new car looks like a Tesla, so if you like that design language, you’ll like the Model 3. Since there’s no internal combustion engine under the hood, there’s no real firewall at the front of the passenger compartment. So designers moved the instrument panel to create more room to move the front seats forward, giving all five adult passengers more leg room. The expanse of glass that is the rear window is designed to alleviate the cramped feeling of the back seats.
At the end of the announcement, after three Model 3s had taken the stage, Musk announced that in the previous 24 hours, 115,000 cars had been pre-ordered. It speaks to Tesla’s reputation, and the power of if its “Secret Master Plan,” that so many people paid their $1000 for a car they had never seen.