Model 3 launch: Everything you need to know about Tesla's mass-market electric car

As Tesla hands over the keys to the first customers of its new Model 3, edie rounds up the reported techs, specs and futuristic features of the electric car which looks set to revolutionise the global automotive industry.

The first batch of Tesla Model 3 electric cars are being delivered to employees at the firm's factory in Fremont, California

The first batch of Tesla Model 3 electric cars are being delivered to employees at the firm's factory in Fremont, California

Almost a year-and-a-half ago, Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk unveiled the firm's lowest-cost electric vehicle (EV) to date: the Model 3.

Pre-orders for the vehicle surged past 250,000 in less than 48 hours. And with each buyer placing a deposit of at least $1,000, the estimated retail value of the rollout alone was around $10.6bn, leading industry experts to claim that THIS is the model that will finally make electric cars mainstream.

Sixteen months on, the Tesla Model 3 is still largely shrouded in mystery, but more details about the new car are beginning to emerge, with the company expected to officially launch the four-door sedan today by deliver the first 30 units to employees at the electric-car maker's factory in Fremont, California.

How much will the Tesla Model 3 cost?

For the UK market, the introduction of the Model 3 couldn't be better timed. Earlier this week, the Government unveiled its new Air Quality Plan, setting out a ban on all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040. All eyes are therefore turning to the likes of Tesla to scale-up EVs as an affordable, mass-market option.

When Tesla first unveiled details of the Model 3, it priced the vehicle at $35,000 (£27,000). However, the carmaker is yet to establish a full pricing scheme and this could leave those on the reservation list with a heftier price than first imagined.

While it is believed that the first few purchases will stick near the $35,000 figure, US carmakers are phased-out of a credit scheme once they sell more than 250,000 vehicles that offer certain incentives such as low-emissions. Any Model 3 buyers beyond the first 250,000 reservations may therefore be dealt a higher price due to the absence of credits for Tesla.

What is the electric performance of the Tesla Model 3?

Last year, Tesla noted that the Model 3 would have a driving range of at least 215 miles per charge, although no further information is available on the highest figure of this spectrum. By comparison, the Chevy Bolt, which falls in a similar price range to the Model 3, can reach 239 miles per charge.

The Model 3 is rumoured to have two battery sizes, which would impact the range of the vehicle. Sizes of 55-60kwh have been cited for smaller battery packs, with the larger types equipped with 70-75kwh.

Tesla vehicles have the fastest charge times amongst any competitors and the company is seeking permits to install huge solar-powered charging stations as it looks to expand its network to account for the large number of Model 3 cars on the road.

According to Tesla’s promotional materials, the Model 3 is able to achieve 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds.

When will the Tesla Model 3 be a 'mass-market' vehicle?

The Model 3 gained traction not just for its affordability but also its mooted high-volume production. While the first 30 vehicles are ready today, Musk has suggested that Tesla could build up to 100 cars in August, before an accelerated production drive later on. By September, around 1,500 vehicles are expected be on the road and before the end of the year, Tesla is aiming to be rolling out 20,000 Model 3 cars a month.

An increase in production will likely go hand-in-hand with progress at the firm’s giant production facility, the Gigafactory, which opened its doors last year - despite the manufacturing plant being only 14% complete. With Tesla hoping to finalise locations for at least two new Gigafactories by the end of 2017, production levels of the company's vehicles, including the Model 3, could vastly increase.

Is the Tesla Model 3 capable of autonomous driving?

Tesla has been developing autonomous features for its vehicles over the past few years. The firm's 'Enhanced Autopilot' feature – autonomous technology that allows for traffic-aware cruise control – has been rolled-out to all vehicles fitted with second-generation autopilot hardware, such as Model S and X units.

The system can be updated wirelessly within vehicles already in circulation and is likely to be added to the Model 3. The available semi-autonomous features allow the vehicle to use 'Autosteer' on roads with visible markings, although this is limited to 45mph. Traffic-aware cruise control makes small changes to driving speed up to 75mph, while automatic lane changing in slow moving traffic could be available.

However, some argue that the Enhanced Autopilot system hasn’t reached similar functionality of the original Autopilot software found in older Tesla vehicles. Last year, the firm split with autonomous driving technology firm Mobileye to forge its own direction and style of autonomous driving, using new hardware.

Over the past nine months, Tesla has offered “full self-driving capability” for the Model 3, at an extra $3,000. What functionalities are added beyond the Enhanced Autopilot system is yet to be fully revealed.

What lies ahead for Tesla and the Model 3?

According to CNET, Tesla will add more mobile repair trucks to its fleet, to facilitate for extra vehicles and limit trips to service centres. The carmaker is in the process of adding around 100 customer-facing facilities globally for retail, delivery and servicing. Tesla also wants to increase the number of certified third-party body shops, and will use remote diagnostics to examine car performance issues before vehicles even arrive at service centres. This has the potential to reduce repair times by 35%.

Chief executive Musk has also confirmed that he is planning on using the solar glass technology from Tesla’s solar roof tiles to boost performance for the Model 3 – potentially creating a renewably-powered solution to defrosting car windscreens during winter.

Speaking during a conference call in November, Musk said: "It is using a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business and, in case it wasn't obvious with the announcement, Tesla has created a glass technology group with some really phenomenal people."

Little else has been revealed as to when and if this vision will become reality.

Matt Mace & Luke Nicholls


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