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Tesla's 3-series rival to be called Model 3 after Ford claims Model E name

"Ford’s trying to kill sex!" says Musk, Tesla CEO

ELECTRIC car maker Tesla is to call its downsized, affordable family car the Model 3, according to reports.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of the American company that shocked the world with the lightning-fast Roadster and then confounded traditionalists with the 300-mile Model S luxury car, had always intended to build a relatively low-cost vehicle in high numbers but favoured a business model that at first focused on low volume, high-cost vehicles. Given the hesitant take-up of electric vehicles by the mass market so far, it was probably a sensible plan.

After the success of the Model S (pictured), and with interest high in Tesla’s forthcoming “falcon wing” Model X SUV, things are progressing with the company’s more compact and affordable family car. This is the first time the name has been confirmed, however.

Most early reports had suggested Tesla would call the car the Model E, which would complete a line-up of models that spelled S, E and X. Ford threw a spanner in the works, though, claiming the Model E name for itself (the Blue Oval did get there with the “Model” prefix first, after all), so Musk was forced to get creative.

He told Auto Express: “We were going to call it Model E for a while and then Ford sued us saying it wanted to use the Model E – I thought this is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex! So we’ll have to think of another name. The new model is going to be called Model 3. We’ll have three bars to represent it and it’ll be S III X!”

The Tesla Model 3, or Model III, will be unveiled in 2016 and will be on sale by 2017 for roughly £30,000, made possible thanks to Tesla’s new “Gigafactory” battery facility. This will produce power packs not only for Tesla but also industry customers, rumoured to include Mercedes and Nissan.

The Model 3 will be based on an all-new platform, rather than sharing the same chassis as the Model S and X, and the range is expected to be more than 200 miles between charges. Owners will have free access to the growing Tesla Supercharger network, expected to be completed by the end of next year, allowing them to travel long distances around the UK.

In addition, Musk has announced welcome news for owners of the Roadster: an upgrade of the battery for the Elise-based sports car will see its range increase from 245 miles to roughly 400 miles.