The electronic car is about to go (more) mainstream. During a packed event at its design studio in Hawthorne, California on Thursday night, and in front of a huge global audience watching via livestream, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Model 3, a $35,000 sedan capable of traveling at least 215 miles on a single charge. The vehicle isn’t expected to ship until late next year; however, you can preorder one now with a $1,000 down payment.
The Model 3 has been 10 years in the making, first mentioned by Musk in a blog post in 2006. In the post, Musk detailed a plan to launch a high-performance sports car, the Tesla Roadster, and then "use that money to build an affordable car (Model S), and then "use that money to build an even more affordable car."
Originally a trilogy, the road to now has actually involved four vehicles, but the mission of the company is the same: to help move the world from a "mine-and burn hydrocarbon economy towards a solar electric economy."
"It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport," Musk said to kick off the event. "It’s very important for the future of the world."
The most affordable Tesla yet, the Model 3 offers many of the same features you might find in one of its more expensive predecessors, all for a price tag that puts the vehicle within reach of a much larger group of people. For a little perspective, the Model S, currently the most affordable car in the company’s lineup, starts at $70,000.
The Model 3 will come in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, with the base model capable of going from 0-60mph in less than six seconds. Musk claims that come 2017 there will be versions of the vehicle that go "much faster." He also says that 215-mile range is likely to improve before we see a final model hit the streets.
Inside, drivers will get the same large touchscreen you find in other Tesla models. The display in the Model 3 is downsized slightly, measuring in at 15 rather than 17 inches, and is mounted horizontally rather than vertically. Tesla’s Autopilot feature, unveiled for the Model S last October, will come standard on the cars. Similar to the Model S, the car will have both front and rear trunk space. Musk says the vehicle will hold five passengers comfortably, and can even handle transporting a seven-foot surfboard.
For those who couldn’t attend the event and get behind the wheel in person, Tesla live-streamed a "first ride" in the vehicle on Periscope to give potential buyers a taste of what’s in store:
Customers were able to make a reservation in person when their local Tesla store opened on Thursday, and online orders started at 7:30 p.m., an hour before the vehicle was officially unveiled. By the end of Thursday’s event more than 130,000 people had preordered the car, with that number expected to grow. The order queue is done by region, with existing Tesla owners getting priority in their respective region over new buyers. When the car does start to ship in 2017, the company plans to roll out the first models on the West Coast before moving east.
Currently the biggest competition for the Model 3 is the Chevy Bolt. Announced last year, the Bolt has a range of 200 miles, and comes in at roughly $30,000 after tax incentives.
Slideshow Credits: 01 / Images: courtesy of Tesla;