Tesla Model 3: Everything You Need to Know

Contributing Writer

In March 2016, in front of a small but exuberant crowd, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Model 3, positioned as an electric car for the masses. More than a year later, Musk has touted the first deliveries of the $35,000 Model 3 to buyers who ponied up $1,000 for the privilege.

Musk said the first Model 3 will roll off the assembly line on Friday, July 7, and official deliveries to the first 30 owners will take place at a July 28 party.

Tesla and the Model 3

Now, the Model 3 isn’t cheap, as the Tesla’s Model S luxury sedan starts at $69,500 and the Model X SUV $70,300, but the price is in line with other electric vehicles.

GM's comparably priced electric Chevy Bolt ($36,620), for example, has been on the market for over six months and boasts a longer range than the Model 3 (238 miles versus 215 miles). And there's expected to be over 40 new electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles introduced this year in both the budget and luxury class.

Still, none has generated as much enthusiasm among buyers as Tesla's Model 3; more than 300,000 people have already paid the reservation fee.

What is it?

The Model 3 is an all-electric, four-door, five-seat vehicle with a glass roof and trunks in the front and the back. Tesla extended the car's interior room, the company says, taking advantage of the space savings resulting from the absence of a traditional gas combustion engine, to make occupants more comfortable. The car is aimed at the Corolla and Accord crowd.

What does the Model 3 cost?

A deposit of $1,000 is required to reserve your order. The base model is priced at $35,000. "Even the base model will be the best car you can buy for $35,000," Musk said during the car’s unveiling.

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With tax incentives and rebates, the total price should dip well below $30,000, bringing it within range of fully loaded Hondas and Toyotas. (The same incentives apply to most EVs and plug-ins.) Buyers on the West Coast will receive their Model 3s first, with deliveries rolling out eastward thereafter.

How soon can I get one?

If you're thinking about placing an order now (the limit is two per customer), expect to wait more than a year for delivery. Tesla will start producing the car slowly, but Musk has said the company should be able to roll out 20,000 Model 3 vehicles per month starting this December. If the company can continue to ramp up production — and there aren't any technical issues with the car — it would mean the company could build as many new Model 3s every month as it sold of all Model S and Model X cars combined for the last reported quarter of 2017.

Musk has promised to get production up to 500,000 vehicles per year, which is almost 10 times the number of cars it sold in all of 2015. However, Tesla has not lived up to previous production goals in the past.

What else do we know about the Model 3?

Musk has revealed a few more details about the Model 3.According to Tesla, the Model 3 will go from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 6 seconds. (Yes, even the base model.) The car will travel at least 215 miles (346 kilometers) on a single charge, and autopilot — the semiautonomous highway driving feature — will be standard on the Model 3.

Moreover, "It's going to be an incredibly safe car," Musk said. "It will be 5 stars in every category."

None of these claims have been independently verified, but reviews of the Model 3 should be available soon.

What's Musk not saying?

Performance had to be curtailed to get the price of this vehicle down to $35,000. Although the Model 3 will go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds, compare that to the souped-up version of Tesla's Model S, which takes less than 3 seconds to do the same. And unlike when the Tesla Roadster debuted, there are a lot of competing electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. (Because they also can use gas, plug-in hybrids have no range limit.)

There's the aforementioned Chevy Bolt EV, for example, as well as an all-electric version of Hyundai's Ioniq. Smart has said all of its models will go electric, and Volvo recently announced that all of its vehicles will at least be plug-in hybrids by 2019.

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What else should I know about the Model 3?

The Model 3 will be a fully electric car, of course, using lithium-ion batteries. All models will be compatible with Superchargers dotted around the country. Supercharging allows the car to be powered up to about 80 percent capacity in roughly 30 minutes. Currently, there are 861 Supercharger Stations with a total of 5,655 Superchargers in the U.S. Tesla hopes to have over 7,000 Superchargers available by the end of the year.

The Model 3 is sleek, without over-the-top exotic twists that can turn off some drivers. (It does not have gull-wing doors, for example, as the crossover Model X does.) Overall, the Model 3 is a slightly stunted version of the Model S with more aggressive, swept-back headlights; a seamless shark nose and a front hood that's reminiscent of the one on the Porsche Panamera. And, yes, there's a massive touch screen on the dashboard.

Bottom line

While Musk's excitement (and projections) tend to exceed the reality, there is no question that Tesla has pushed the whole automotive industry forward, inspiring others to get on the EV bandwagon. Stay tuned for our in-depth test-drive and further updates.