Rolling out the red carpet to introduce the Tesla Model 3

  • Published on April 1st, 2016

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(Cross-posted from our sister blog, Cleantechnica, as they cover the launch of the Tesla Model 3)

Los Angeles at 7:00 pm in March is filled with the eager energy of spring. As the sun abandons its post, the The Tesla Model 3 test course by Kyle Fieldwarm almost spring air transitions into a crisp, cool night, leaving a touch of color in the sky. Today, the sunset is greeted by another set of colorful lights from a familiar source — the Tesla Design Studio in Hawthorne, California.

This is the Southern California base for Tesla Motors, and the setting for most of the major reveals, including the recent “D” event. In similar fashion, Tesla has set up an outdoor course that routes around the mixed-use Tesla/Space X complex at the Hawthorne Airport, with one run that spans the length of the complex, allowing participants to put the pedal to the metal and let the cars stretch their wings a bit for a brief sprint.

Elon kicked off the presentation a few minutes after 8:30 pm, with a direct and to-the-point message about global warming. In no uncertain terms, he shared that CO2 levels are rising and are higher than anytime in the history of humanity… and that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are not on any track but up at this point. Connecting back to the reason for Tesla existing is that cars spew toxic gases which pollute our planet.

Putting the reason for Tesla existing front and center continues the trend of Elon getting more and more bold about reminding people why Tesla — and all of the other electric car manufacturers — are so critical to the future of humanity. He talked up this key point at the Tesla Energy event, discussed the importance of implementing a global carbon tax at COP21, and continued to remind owners, shareholders, and potential buyers that it is not important to just buy the fastest, most beautiful, most technologically advanced car… but to buy a car that doesn’t burn gasoline. Thankfully, Elon and the awesome team at Tesla have built several cars that do all of those things.

Winding the clock back, Elon reminisced about the early days of Tesla and how they were so eager to prove to people that electric cars can be and are great. With the Roadster, the team proved that building a production car was possible and that EVs weren’t just glorified golf carts. It was a low-volume, high-priced car that gave Tesla a key financial and experiential foothold in the world of EV manufacturing and design.

The Model S and X came as mid-price, mid-volume cars which allowed Tesla to try the next rung up the ladder… now producing thousands of cars per year… and into the tens of thousands of cars per year from the hundreds of Roadsters it had been putting out every year.

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The next step in the evolution of Tesla is design and selling the high-volume, low-cost, “affordable” car that has been the end game for Tesla since day 1 — the Model 3 — and that day is here. The same graphic of the evolution of Tesla was splashed on the screen, followed quickly by some cutaway shots of the chassis of the Model 3, which looked a lot like a smaller Model X. Dual Motors, a “skateboard” chassis, and a skeleton that looks like a Tesla tease to the crowd.

Safety & Range

Elon shared that, as with the Model S and X, safety was of paramount importance. They aimed for, and achieved, a 5-star safety rating in all categories, which only means that the car meets the minimum specs but likely exceeds them. With an initial commitment to delivering 200 miles of range, Tesla stepped it up with a 215 mile EPA rated range. Elon shared that these specs are only the minimum specs and the actuals could work out to be higher for the base model.

Autopilot & Active Safety 

As with the Model S and X, the Model 3 will come with autopilot hardware standard in all Model 3s — though, as with the S and X, it requires an option package to enable it. One caveat to that is that autopilot safety features are included in every car, meaning all Tesla Model 3s sold will be the safest Model 3 on the road. This feels like a huge win for consumers, as safety is one of those things that all of us want but not many people actually want to cough up $3,000 for an active safety package. That’s not fun, that’s not sexy, and as such… it just won’t sell like it should. This approach makes the decision for buyers and prioritizes safety. Great to see.

Fits 5 Adults Comfortably

While the Model 3 is 18% smaller than the Model S, it still “fits 5 adults comfortably.” And Elon emphasized that the word “comfortably” was important. To accomplish this, Tesla designers compressed instrument panels which allowed them to move the front seats forward. This move gives rear passengers much more legroom as Roger and Matt Pressman of EV Annexshared with us after their test drive in the Model 3. Look for an in-depth interview with them later for more juicy details on the Model 3 test drive.

Visibility

Looking up towards the stars is not normally possible from inside of a car but there has never been a car like the Model 3. In the Model 3, the Supersplendulous windscreen is complemented by what is still presumably an optional panoramic roof. In the functional prototypes that were on site at the event, both had panoramic rooftops which made the car feel extremely open inside.

Cargo

Carrying on the Tesla tradition, the Model 3 comes with front and rear trunks, which earn it the title of  “more cargo capacity than any gasoline car with similar dimensions.” Taking out the space normally reserved by a gasoline engine and replacing it with 1 or 2 Tesla motors leaves quite a bit of extra room to play with, and it’s evident that Tesla has worked hard to continue providing exceptional cargo storage capabilities with the Model 3.

Supercharging

We had wondered early on if Supercharging would be included by default or not, and boom… it is. This stimulates the question about Superchargers and, as if to pre-empt the question, Elon shared that, by the end of next year (that’s 2017, folks), Tesla would be doubling the number of Superchargers out in the wild and quadrupling the number of destination chargers on the same timing.

The High-Volume Tesla

To make the Model 3 from a production standpoint, Tesla needs to achieve high-volume production, which requires additional investment, but the Fremont factory has done this in the past and it is confident it can do it again in the future. Looking towards the batteries, to meet forecasted demand, Tesla needs the entire world’s lithium battery production, which it is expecting to build from scratch in the Gigafactory. Good news for Tesla, the Gigafactory is on schedule to be at full capacity by 2020 as promised.

Model 3 will land late next year at a price of $35,000, which feels like a great deal considering how much tech it packs and can be packed into the car via options that will surely reveal themselves.

Orders for the Model 3 officially opened in Tesla stores this morning, and in just a handful of hours – surely less than one day — orders for the Model 3 — which nobody has seen or heard anything about — has locked in over 115,000 as of the keynote. When we left the event, the number was just over 138,000 paid reservations.

Gallery Images by Kyle Field

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