This is the day. The day that Tesla has been working towards from the very start. The Tesla Model 3 has finally materialised into reality, and the first production Model 3’s get handed over. 8:45 PM UTC-08:00 (Gigafactory 1 Time), 3:45PM UTC+12:00 (New Zealand Time), 5AM UTC+00:00 (UK Time), and the handover party gets live streamed all over the world. Yes, I am a Tesla fanboy. I never perceived myself as the nutty kind of Tesla fan though – at least, not until today…
Having marked myself as “busy” on my Google Calendar for 4pm (local time for live stream from a mysterious location in California), I spent the day getting my favourite clothes washed and dried, and hurried off to the supermarket to get some essential celebratory snacks. A “Do not disturb” sign on my door kept my non-EV fan family from interrupting this monumental moment. So yes, I must now concede that I am, in fact, the nutty kind of Tesla fan!
Why did I go to all this effort? Simple. The Tesla Model 3 handover party is an epoch in automotive history. Or rather, it marks an epoch. And epochs don’t come around very often – they are points at which the course of history is altered, and, for those that recognise them, are to either treasured or dreaded. To me, an epoch that helps ensure that my home planet will remain inhabitable is worth treasuring. Of course, we still have a lot to do, but this is a big milestone.
Anyway, enough of my philosophical ramblings. On to the good stuff:
Adam is our MC for the night, and introduces us to Allan and David (from the Hawthorne design studio), who start us off with a quick breeze through the proud history of Tesla vehicles, visiting the Roadster, Model S, and Model X. We then switched to two of Tesla’s designers, who reminded us that every vehicle that they produce, demonstrating that form can follow function with no compromise on either. Essentially, everything that Tesla has to proud of. And that is quite something. Their work speaks for itself, too. The Model S and Model X are both extraordinary cars.
Switch now to the Gigafactory, with Meredith, one of Tesla’s factory design engineers. She tells us the story of when she first came to the Gigafactory two years ago, as one of about 20 Tesla employees working in a ‘cramped, tiny construction trailer’. She explains that Tesla’s innovative manufacturing techniques have significantly reduced the cost of battery cell manufacturing, allowing the company to acheive Part 3 of the Secret Master Plan. Which we all know is the Model 3.
Gigafactory now produces the lowest-cost, most reliable, and highest-performance batteries on the modern market, which she says is a standard carried through everything that Tesla does (now I love Tesla, but their quality control record so far isn’t exactly stellar. I’ll give them kudos though, because they are the only company that has dared to stand up to the establishment and come through with their independence intact).
Meredith hands us back to Adam, who remarks on the impressive progress made at Gigafactory since he was last on site in January. When the Gigafactory is complete, it will be the world’s largest building by footprint, and will be producing twice as many batteries as all other battery factories in the world combined!
Now to the Fremont factory with Crystal, who happens to be sitting on a gangway overlooking Tesla’s general assembly line. We can see a Model X being assembled in the background. This factory used to be NUMMI, a factory jointly owned by Toyota and General Motors. Crystal has spent the last nine months working with the team that built that cars being delivered today. A black Model S passes on the overhead conveyor in the background, still awaiting an interior and some wheels. As Crystal points out, it isn’t hard to manufacture one of anything, but to produce the same thing thousands of times over, the same way, to the same standard, that’s hard. Tesla keeps innovating to automate production, in order to deliver the car on time, and to ensure that it is reliable, as we can all reasonably expect from our cars.
Vertical integration has been a huge boost to the company, but the quality of Tesla’s product, [and any product for that matter] comes down to the people. A big shout out to everybody that works in general assembly, who helped make this whole thing possible!
Back to Adam, who now stands on stage with Bria Loveday, famous for her letter to Musk which triggered Project Loveday. For those of you not familiar with Project Loveday, it was based on a suggestion by Bria that Tesla hold a contest for the best user-generated commercial. It was a moment of absolute brilliance, and Elon himself saw that. He personally responded to her, and launched Project Loveday a few days later.
She was ‘really excited’ when she received her response from Elon Musk himself because, well, who wouldn’t be? When asked if she has a favourite, she says that she can’t choose. She then plays the Top 3 submissions. All three were excellent submissions in their own right, but one of my favourite submissions has made first place! Yay! And a big congratulations to Marques Brownlee, for the exceptional work in that hilarious, but honest commercial. I especially loved that scene at the traffic lights with Ludicrous mode.
So ends the pre-event portion of the webcast. Now we start the wait for Ol’ Muskey!
A couple of minutes later here he is! Well, not quite. Franz, head of design for Tesla, says a special thank you to all present, employees, and those of us watching online! He introduces Elon, asking for our help with bringing him to the stage. The countdown begins.
Then it ends, as Musk drives on stage in a brand-new Model 3, painted red. What a looker! Umm… the car, that is… Anyway, Musk gets out the Model 3 and quickly directs our attention to the Model S sitting in the midst of the crowd, wearing a data projector as a hat. He is addressing those of us watching online. This projector, as it turns out, is being powered by the Model S. He then points to the projection screen, and points out that it is actually part of the factory, not a screen. And the audience physically present is comprised of the team that designed and built the Model 3. And I say we owe them a lot for their part in saving our planet. Musk gives them a grateful bow, and congratulates the design team on their phenomenal work.
Referring to the cars’ minimalist interior, he explains that in the future – the future being now – cars will be equipped with full autonomy. Every Tesla currently being produced has all of the hardware needed to support fully autonomous driving. The Model 3 has over 10 teraflops of computing power on board, which should be sufficient for full Autopilot.
To make the car larger inside than a Model S, they carried over an idea from the Model X, that being the canopy screen, which makes you feel ‘like you’re flying in a helicopter’ according to Musk. I have never been in a Model X myself, but it sure looks (and sounds) awesome! The Model 3 was designed to be easier to build than previous Tesla cars, which meant reducing the number of parts, designing it to be nice and light, but also keeping the cost down.
Now to look at crash test footage; a Volvo S60, which has a 5-star safety rating in category, compared to a Model 3. The specific footage shown here is from the side-impact test, which tests how well the car would survive being hit in the side or hitting a pole side-on. And I’ll let my screenshot take it from there:
Elon laughs a bit, tries to speak, and bursts out laughing again. “There are a lot of cars that say they are 5-star, and they are, sort of, 5-star. There’s not a scientific metric, but, even though they are something likeable, a great car, by normal standards very safe, the Volvo is arguably the second safest car in the world. But it is obvious which car you would prefer to be in, in an accident.”
The Volvo is now the second safest car in the world. I think Volvo may take that as a challenge. The major challenge for Tesla, is ramping up production. He says ‘frankly’, they are going to be in ‘production hell’ for at least the next 6 months. The Fremont factory, the second largest building in the world by footprint, will ultimately be producing 500,000 Model 3’s, and 100,000 combined Models S & X. Maybe more, but time will tell.
Addressing a question that frequently comes up on his Twitter feed (namely “Where is my Model 3?” Sometimes not so nicely worded), Elon promises to ramp up production as quickly as possible. For those who are having trouble sleeping, he says “this chart might help you”, as a chart showing the projected Model 3 production ramp-up appears on screen.
A Model 3 has 10,000 unique parts, and like most cars, these parts come from all over the world. Two-thirds are manufactured in North America, but about one-third of these parts are coming from the rest of the world.
He shows the supply chain for the Model 3 on a world map, which ‘looks like we’re being shot by ICBMs’. He then muses that that could be the ICBM chart. I love his sense of humour!
Tesla Model 3 has over 10,000 unique components, which is partially why the chart looks like there is a co-ordinated attack on Tesla’s factory in Fremont. Anything that goes anywhere in the world could interrupt production if the supply chain hasn’t been buffered. The production rate is as fast as the slowest arriving component; something Tesla knows all too well from past vehicles, which have been delayed by such trivial things as carpets.
The Gigafactory was developed from scratch in the Nevada desert, and is already the largest battery factory in the world. When complete, as stated above, it will be producing more storage capacity than every other factory in the world combined. We say a quick hello to the staff at the Gigafactory, where the battery packs and powertrains are made. Big factory making cars and big supply chain have to work together to reach initial production targets of 5,000 cars per weekand hopefully 10,000 cars per week by the end of 2018.
The second most common question he gets on Twitter regards the tendency of Superchargers to be full – “the Supercharger is full. What is wrong with you? Why are you such a huge idiot?” Musk laughs and says “hey, sorry!” By the end of next year, the number of Superchargers will have tripled, which should help ease matters a bit.
We turn now to the Model 3 spec sheet:
The Model 3 will have two basic configurations: Standard and Long Range. There was no word on the options available beyond that, but it is good to know that Model 3 does have a longer-range option for those that need it.
Model 3 will start out at USD$35,000 with a 220 mile range, and USD$44,000 with a 310 mile range, only a little less than the Model S 100D. The base Model 3 will go 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds, and the long range version will do it in just 5.1 seconds. This makes Model 3 one of the quickest cars in its class. That’s Tesla for you. A standard Model 3 can move at up to 130mph, whereas a long-range variant will go slightly faster at 140mph.
And now to hand over the first 30 production Model 3’s, which are being charged at the superchargers near the stage. Each one of them looks just beautiful! The proud, pioneering owners make their way to their cars. Tesla has built 50 Model 3’s this month – 20 of which are for factory testing and engineering validation. Musk promises to get working on filling the remaining pre-orders as quickly as possible.
Tesla now has three cars in production, says Musk. The S, the X, and the 3. Those can be arranged in any order, he adds. A big thank you from Elon to Tesla fans, customers, and employees for their loyalty. And that’s all! Stunning shots of Tesla’s breath-taking vehicles see us out. And lo, a piece of history was made.
Thanks to Tesla for really making an effort to save our planet. The fight has only just begun, of course. But I think much of the automotive world will panic as Tesla starts rolling out Model 3’s all over the world. I am now bracing for the long wait until Tesla starts delivering the Model 3 to buyers in New Zealand, where I eagerly await the chance to one day own one myself (though that is probably a long way off at this point).
Great work Elon, great work Tesla, and we wish you all much prosperity in the future as you continue to lead the way in sustainable energy and transportation. You’ve earned it!