Culture / Cars

A Billionaire’s Suddenly Affordable Electric Car Creates a Sensation

Can You Believe in the New Tesla?

BY Jim Shi // 04.01.16

Finally, a Tesla you can afford.

On Thursday night at the Tesla Design Studio outside Los Angeles, billionaire Elon Musk debuted a trio of Model 3 sedans to a global audience — the event was streamed to millions. First promised back in summer of 2014 as a $35,000 EV that would be accessible to the masses, the 3 is finally here.

Musk promised a delivery date of “the end of 2017,” although it’s more likely 2018 will see the lion’s share of rollouts. As of 12:01am Friday, the California-based carmaker had taken close to 150,000 deposits for the Model 3.

First and foremost, some tech you can expect: a base Model 3 will have an EPA-rated range of at least 215 miles, meet five-star safety criteria in every category and come standard with supercharging and autopilot hardware. It’ll also go zero to 60mph in sub-six seconds.

“Even if you get no options, this will be the best car you can buy,” said Musk.

But enough geeking out. Let’s talk about the looks, shall we? Tesla diehards had an inkling the Model 3 would strike a resemblance to the Model S and Model X, but the results are rather striking.

Most noticeable is the complete omission of a front grille. While unneeded, it’s something that requires getting used to. Tesla hasn’t confirmed an interior design status, but based on the dash shown at the launch there will be a 15-inch screen that sits in landscape rather than portrait orientation.

Speaking of interior display and user interface, all controls are housed in said 15-inch horizontal display, as opposed to the 17-inch vertically orientated unit currently seen. Featured high and prominent in the dash, the unit sits conspicuously out of the console, as opposed to remaining flush. Also absent are any gauges directly in front of the driver. While the speedometer is featured in the top left-hand corner of screen, the availability of a heads-up display is something many a driver — and their respective insurance company — will no doubt appreciate.

Best of all, Musk reassured the value of freedom by announcing that, in addition to standard supercharging, Tesla plans to add an additional 3,600 superchargers and quadruple the number of destination chargers — hotels, restaurants and stores with Tesla wall connectors — by the end of next year.

And all those chargers will be needed should the number of Teslas on the roads quadruples or increases five-fold, something that is easily possible, thanks, in large part, to the company’s new Nevada Gigafactory, which will significantly reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries. “Volumetrically wise, the factory will place second only to the Boeing factory in Washington.”

Suddenly, that road trip from Beaumont to El Paso doesn’t seem too tedious.

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