Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, the space transport company, is a man not averse to taking risks. Whether it’s changing the way people pay for things (he made his fortune with PayPal) or deciding that space rockets should land themselves back on the launchpad after use, the higher the hurdle the more he appears to limber up for the jump.
Now he takes what is arguably his biggest leap of faith yet: trying to persuade Audi, BMW and Mercedes drivers to ditch their comfortable, status-enhancing gas-guzzling saloon cars and switch over to a pure-electric Tesla Model 3.
— Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) April 1, 2016
Here’s what we know about Tesla’s biggest gamble yet:
• The unveiling of the prototype was at 4.30am UK time on April 1. There will be design changes before the final production car is revealed next year, according to Musk.
• Elon Musk wanted to call the car the Model E. Previously, he said: “We had the Model S for sedan and X for crossover SUV, then a friend asked what we were going to call the third car. So I said we had the Model S and X, we might as well have the E.” However, Musk claimed that Ford sued Tesla on the basis that it wanted to use the name ‘Model E’. “I thought this is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex!” he said. The letter ‘3’ was used to replace ‘E’.
• It is the smallest, most affordable model yet from the Californian electric car maker. This means it should also be its biggest-selling model. Musk’s business plan was always to build low volume, high value cars first, then introduce higher volume, lower cost cars over time. The company claims it will produce 500,000 cars per year from 2020.
• The driving range of the five-seat Model 3 is said to be “over 200 miles” on a single charge of the battery. If it isn’t, Tesla will face an uphill struggle convincing Audi and BMW drivers to switch to an electric car. Some reports have claimed up to 300 miles from an 80kWh battery, but until the car is put to the test, no one can say for certain how it performs.
• Charging time will depend on the size of the battery but a Tesla Supercharger can add 170 miles of range to the Model S in about 30 minutes. Home wall chargers can manage up to 68 miles of range per hour.
• It is predicted to cost from £30,000, a price point that Jay Leno, the motoring commentator and Sunday Times contributor, considers to be critical in terms of succeeding in the mass market.
• Yesterday, the company began taking orders together with a mandatory £1000 deposit – before the car was even revealed. Customers queued outside Tesla stores around the world to be one of the first in their region to place an order, and by the end of the unveiling, Tesla claimed over 130,000 orders had been placed.
• Those customers will face an extremely long wait; Tesla said that production of the Model 3 won’t begin until late 2017.
• Initially, customers in America will be given priority. As orders begin to be fulfilled there, production of European specification cars will begin. If there are delays, as there have been with the Model S luxury car and Model X family car, British drivers are likely to have to wait until 2018 for a Model 3.
• The attraction for many drivers will be the chance to use the Model 3 as a company car and dramatically reduce their company car tax bill. Fuel costs also fall dramatically when driving electric.
• However, it won’t be as slow as a snail. Musk joked that “we don’t do slow cars at Tesla” and the 0-60mph acceleration time for the standard model is said to be under six seconds. Faster versions will follow.
• Cabin space is said to be class-leading; there are no instruments for the driver, other than a huge 15 inch touchscreen
• The company anticipates that the family car will be awarded the maximum safety ratings when subjected to independent crash tests.
• Different bodystyles built on the Model 3 platform may emerge over time, including perhaps a compact crossover version.
• To meet demand for batteries, Musk is establishing what he calls a Gigafactory: a massive plant employing around 6,500 people to create Tesla power packs.In size terms, the Model 3 will rival petrol, diesel or hybrid-powered cars such as the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Jaguar XE or Mercedes C-class.
• The network of Tesla Superchargers – rapid battery chargers located around the world – will double to around 7,000 points by the end of next year
• You can watch Tesla’s video of the Model 3 being unveiled here: