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Tesla Model 3: Liftoff

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced today that the Model 3 passed all regulatory requirements two weeks ahead of schedule. He also stated that ‘SN1’, which many of us believe to be the first production Model 3, will be completed this Friday. With deliveries now imminent, it seems appropriate to delve into the spec sheet.

Announced on the 31st of March last year, the Model 3 promises to be an affordable mass-market long-range electric car. Of course, other EVs in a similar price bracket already offer similar range and value, but the Chevrolet brand lacks the allure of the lightyears-ahead-of-the-curve Tesla Model S and Model X. What Tesla has previously lacked in affordability hasn’t been a problem either, with numerous instructables showing up on YouTube and the internet aimed at educating people on how they can afford a Tesla without going into debt.

The Model 3 is aimed at providing an affordable mass-market EV. And frankly, I think it looks stunning. The lines are reminiscent of Tesla’s flagship Model S, but with a few refreshments to remind us that this isn’t a Model S that has been through the hot wash. Tesla’s signature retractable door handles continue to grace the sides of the car, as does the blank nose – with no radiator-grille-thingy that is only there to make the design seem like it isn’t from a science fiction film.

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Model 3; a graciously designed car with traditional cues. Performance, however, is anything but traditional.

That is great, because Tesla is a company that aims to move the world forward. Losing the radiator grille is more than just a design statement. Or at least, that is what I would like to think. It tells me that with no Jurassic Crematorium under the hood, there is little need for a radiator, so why do things that mean nothing. Anyway, that’s enough philosphical stupidity for one night. Let’s move on to the meaningful stuff.

Tesla has made history with the Model 3 – so far, they have been running on-schedule with the Model 3, which is a nice change from the benchmark they set in running 3 years late with the Model X, initially planned to launch in 2013. The Model 3 has now passed all regulatory requirements, and is entering production. Take that, Tesla haters. Even more impressive, Tesla has even done the opposite of their previous launch. Instead of being three years late, the Model 3 was up to scratch two weeks early.

Of course, they still have to produce the first 30 in time to hand over to customers. I hope they get it done quick – my country isn’t due to receive them until 2019, and I really want one (or at least, to lay eyes on one. I don’t think I could afford a new car just yet…)

What we know about the Tesla Model 3:

The car boasts a 0-60mph time of just 5.6 seconds, comes with a 75kWh battery pack, and possesses a theoretical range of at least 345kmh. Model 3 can seat 5 adults (comfortably), and has about 400 liters (14 cubic feet) of luggage space. Compare 16.9 cubic feet for the Chevrolet Bolt. So, luggage space isn’t great, but it will carry your groceries and should hold adequate luggage for a couple of nights at Grandma’s house.

Like any well-behaved Tesla these days, the Model 3 also sports a small frunk. This is a good thing, especially considering the fact that very few people ever come home from the supermarket with only what they forgot to buy yesterday to go with Grandma’s famous chicken soup. Depending on your country, it could also serve as an extra passenger compartment. I wouldn’t recommend that though.

Due to it’s low price tag (for a Tesla), the Model 3 doesn’t come with free supercharging. It retains the capability, but you have to pay per use. It seems like a safe trade-off though – it will take a long time to spend the difference in price on supercharging. It also doesn’t open it’s charging flap for you, instead giving you plenty of opportunities to hear all about Grandpa’s memories of the first car he owned with a fuel filler cap, and how he knew that the manual fuel flap could never quite be replaced.

The base Model 3 also lacks an automatic liftgate – which, as Tesla is eager to point out, is standard in the Model S. Several of these luxuries would drive the price of the car up too far to be affordable to most customers, which is probably why they have not been added to the Model 3.

The interior is best described as minimalist – it forgoes the driver display and 17″ portrait control screen in favour of a single horizontal 15″ control screen mounted in the center. With only one screen, the inside of the Model 3 looks enormous. The dashboard, for example, isone big empty space. Though I must admit, I like the simplicity.

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Tesla Model 3 interior. Source: Teslarati.com

Options are limited for early examples; the earliest customers will be able to choose the colour and the wheel size. Beyond that, we don’t yet know. It appears that the glass roof will be optional – which makes sense. An all-glass roof isn’t for everyone.

As for the possibility of mass-production, Model 3 has definitely qualified for it, with enough pre-orders to keep the production line busy for at least 18 months. These pre-ordered Model 3’s will eventually find their homes in all corners of the globe. Deliveries for New Zealand are expected in 2019 at the earliest.

The Tesla Model 3 enjoyed the most successful product launch of all time – once the ~USD600 million worth of deposits have materialised, the company will have moved USD$14 billion worth of Model 3. No small figure, and not likely to reduce. Many people have dropped their reservations in favour of a Model S, but there are still hundreds of thousands of people who want one and are willing to wait.