Tesla Model 3 comes at an important moment for electric vehicles

  • Published on July 29th, 2017

Is it some kind of crazy coincidence? Is it the stars teaming up with a starry-eyed Elon? Or is it simply in the socio-quantum physics of how technology transitions occur?

Wait a second, what am I talking about?

The electric vehicle market has risen to about 1% of the overall new car market. Actually, as EV-Box points out (and I pointed out in January), the US electric car market rose to just above 1% of the broader car market in December 2016. That’s practically right in the middle of the Tesla Model 3 unveiling last year and Model 3 production beginning this month.1% makes it sound like we’re only 1% of the way there — well, yeah, that’s what it means. However, due to the nonlinear nature of technology adoption curves, the key points Tim Kreukniet of EV-Box highlights are as follows:

“The argument of accelerated growth, as presented by Google Futurist Ray Kurzweil, goes as follows: 0.01% to 1% market penetration takes 7 doublings. The same applies to 1% going to a 100%. GM’s EV1 was released in 1996, and from there, it took us 20 years to get to 1% (or roughly a doubling every 3 years). According to Kurzweil’s theory, we need another 20 years to get to 100% new vehicles sold.”


And, getting to my point and the hot news of the day, the interesting thing is that the Model 3 is coming to town right at this halfway point. The signature vehicle of the electric car transition is arriving at the 1% marker. The car that will probably most often be highlighted in the “history books” about the transition to electric cars is offering hundreds of thousands of reservation holders a piece of the rEVolution presumably right in the middle of GM EV1* and 100% market share for new electric cars. (*Incidentally, the GMW EV1 is actually a key part of what inspired Elon Musk to launch into the Tesla effort.)

There are many things people don’t understand about electric cars. Actually, most people probably wouldn’t even be able to tell you what Tesla is if you asked them. Furthermore, many plug-in cars on the market today are basically “hidden” as discreet variations of their gasoline counterparts, and I’d bet that more than 50% of the population doesn’t know there are cars on the market that you can charge using a normal electricity outlet.

However, when hundreds of thousands of Tesla Model 3s hit the streets, people will notice. They will start to think, “What the heck is that car?” People will start to learn what electric cars are — I mean, the mass market will start to learn. Us EV enthusiasts often assume the average person on the street knows something about Tesla and electric cars. Not so much. But an entirely new brand and its stunning, eye-catching, hot little sedan will start to open eyes.

One of the best stories I have from Model 3 unveiling day is actually from a consumer like this. She was in line super early at the Santa Monica Tesla store to reserve a Model 3. I asked her when she first found out about Tesla. She said the moment was approximately one year before that. She was driving on the highway and saw a beautiful car in front of her. Having no idea what it was, she Googled “T car” when she got home. She then found out it was a Tesla Model S … and it was bloody expensive. A few months later, she found out about the Tesla Model 3 on Facebook and decided immediately she’d get that car.

Expect a lot more stories like that as hundreds of thousands of Model 3s start paroling cities and suburbs up and down the East Coast, the West Coast, and Middle America. I think the Model 3 is even more stunning than the Model S — it will catch eyeballs. Furthermore, because it will be rolling around in much higher numbers than the Model S, people will be more likely to recognize it and more likely to assume that it’s not some exotic, expensive car but a real option for the middle class.

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Living in California, with a high percentage of Tesla’s Model S and Model X offerings in consumers’ hands, the lady mentioned above (second video below) had the opportunity to see a Tesla in front of her on the highway and then learn a little bit about the company. Elsewhere in the United States, seeing a Tesla Model S or Model X is far less common, but the Model 3 will bring that Tesla adoption level and awareness to humble streets across the broad and varied country. Its presence in the driveways of early adopters in other states will help to stimulate the further development of this technology’s exponential growth curve.

In any case, the point is that we’re at both an interesting point in the evolution of electric car sales and an interesting point in the evolution of electric car models. Stepping back for a moment, 2016–2017 is an epic period in the EV transition — halftime, as it were. And I guess we’re just sitting through a wild halftime show right now in the midst of it all.

Keep an eye on electric car sales datamonth after month for ongoing updates on the sales, and keep an eye on our Tesla Model 3 page to enjoy the rollout of the already iconic and record-shattering Tesla Model 3.

(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica.Check out their new 93-page EV report)

About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.