Five Things We Like About The Tesla Model 3 Electric Car (Based On What We Know So Far)

Four days ago, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] officially started to take deposits around the world for the Tesla Model 3, an all-electric mid-sized car which Tesla has promised will retail from $35,000 before incentives, offer a range of 215 miles per charge in its entry-level configuration, and come with both supercharger and autopilot hardware built into each and every vehicle.

Even before the official reveal event — which took place late on Thursday night at Tesla’s design studio in Hawthorne, California — more than 130,000 people worldwide had each handed over $1,000 (or their local currency equivalent) to secure themselves a place in the line to reserve a Model 3. At the time we’re writing this, that figure has risen to more than a quarter of a million.

We're in agreement: the design is (mostly) good.

We’re in agreement: the design is (mostly) good.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve had mixed views about the Tesla Model 3. As anyone who watched out live event coverage on Thursday will know, we’ve had both positive and negative reactions to the Model 3 from the moment we saw it. While regular contributor Stephen Noctor, occasional writer Mark Chatterley and columnist Electragirl (and by association her husband Michael Thwaite) have stepped up to the plate and put down their own deposits on what is already the most in-demand and pivotal electric car in history, Kate Walton Elliott and this author have, after discussion with our respective families, decided the Model 3 (in its current configuration) simply wouldn’t suit our needs or lifestyles.

Just because not all of the team agree on the Model 3 though doesn’t mean we can’t all appreciate the things we think Tesla has got right about the Model 3. So with a few days’ of thinking time behind us, here are the five things we like about the Tesla Model 3 based on what we know of the early prototype unveiled last Thursday night. While not every member of the team agrees on each point, every member of the team had editorial input into our list.

It comes with Supercharger hardware

Supercharging is key.

Supercharging is key.

If you’ve spent any amount of time driving an electric car that isn’t a Tesla Model S or Tesla Model X, you’ll know that charging can be something of a hit or miss affair. Aside from the massive number of RFID smart card you need to carry to ensure access to the many different public charging networks out there, only a handful of charging providers are proactive when it comes to maintenance and repair. It’s fairly common for a charging station to spend months out of action waiting for repair after failing for some (usually benign) reason.

Tesla’s proprietary (but open-source) Supercharger network is different. With plenty of redundancy built-in, Tesla’s Supercharger network is not only reliable

but included in the price of all current Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X vehicles sold. It is also the fastest charging protocol currently in use, capable of charging cars at a speed of around 170 miles in just half an hour.

While Tesla has confirmed Supercharger hardware will be included as standard with every Model 3, there’s some confusion as to if Supercharger access is going to be included in the cost of Model 3 or if it will come with a one-off activation fee (something Tesla has done in the past with its now-discontinued Model S 60).

With more than 613 supercharger locations worldwide — and more than 3,600 actual supercharger stalls — there are few places in the continental U.S., Europe, Japan, eastern China or southeast Australia you can’t go with a Tesla electric car. By the time that the Model 3 launches, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has promised to dramatically expand the network. By the end of 2017 alone, Musk has committed to more than doubling the number of Supercharger locations around the world, and quadruple the number of Tesla Destination chargers, where customers can charge their cars at speeds of up to 58 miles per hour, also free of charge.

The promised range is just right (when extended by Superchargers)

Here’s one we’re all in agreement on: with 215 miles of projected range per charge (based on the reasonably-realistic EPA test cycle) the Tesla Model 3 is a car which will meet all of the daily driving needs of every single member of our team. While most of us have been happily driving around in much shorter-range electric cars for the past few years trouble-free, we’ve done so while mindful of where the next charging station is, how full our car’s battery pack is when we leave the house, and the constant risk that a charging station will fail on us when doing trips longer than 80 miles.

With a 215-mile range — about the distance most people will feel comfortable with before needing a 45-minute lunch/restroom/coffee break — the Tesla Model 3, like the Model S and Model X before it, becomes a car in which range ceases to be a concern. In all but the most extreme of road trips — which you plan in advance for regardless of the type of car you’re driving — an overnight charge will be more than enough to allow you to treat the Model 3 as any other car, meaning serendipity, last-minute changes and detours are no-longer an electric car’s worst enemy.

The overall design is pretty good (although there are exceptions)

Viewed from the side, the Tesla Model 3 looks pretty similar to the Tesla Model S, a design which we’re all fond of here at Transport Evolved. And for the most part, the rest of the Tesla Model 3 is a pretty good-looking car too. While we’re all pretty much in agreement about the nose (we’re all hoping Tesla’s promised revision makes it more appealing and less… slab-like) we all love the flush door handles — which are less complicated and troublesome than the Model S ones — and the inclusion of the front trunk (or frunk).

More than a quarter-million people have now signed up for a place in the Model 3 queue.

More than a quarter-million people have now signed up for a place in the Model 3 queue.

Most on the team are also in favor of the rear end, although three out of the five of us aren’t so happy about the fact the Model 3 is a sedan rather than a hatchback. If Tesla changed that to a hatchback however, we’re all in agreement that the lines are pretty close to what we’d expect from the California automaker.

It’s ‘classic Tesla’ if you will, with a little bit of European sports car (those front lights) thrown in for good measure. In the marketplace we think it will ultimately occupy — namely the entry-level premium segment currently occupied by BMW’s 3-Series Sedan, Audi’s A4 and Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class — we think it’s the right design to take on all three German automakers.

The likelihood that there’s a heads-up display on the way

After thinking about it for a few days, each member of our team has said the same thing about the lack of driver-facing instrumentation: Tesla must be planning a heads-up display for the Model 3.

While Tesla told attendees on Thursday evening that pertinent information such as speed and odometer readings can be displaced on the central touch-screen display for the driver to see, we’re all in agreement that the placement of that screen isn’t quite right for comfortable, undistracted viewing while the car is being driven. Consequently, we’ve all come to the conclusion that Model 3 will likely get its own heads-up display before it enters production.

We're convinced there's a heads up display on the way.

We’re convinced there’s a heads-up display on the way.

Not only do heads-up displays improve driver safety by projecting an apparent image ahead of the car on the windscreen, allowing the driver to focus more on the road ahead, but they’re also a common feature on premium cars (and increasingly on high-end mainstream models too).

Given we’re all quite geeky here at Transport Evolved, it’s something we’re quite excited about for the Model 3. Add in the fact that Elon Musk promises we’ll find out much more about Model 3 in a “part 2” reveal event closer to production, and we’re almost certain we’re right.

It could be the Model T of the modern age

We’ll try not to get too teary-eyed about this — or too evangelical — but the Model 3 is a car which quite literally, could change the world. Assuming Tesla can bring it to market on time, on budget, and in the kind of volumes needed to ensure all of the quarter-million or so reservation holders can get their car within a year or two of official launch, the Tesla Model 3 could be for the modern age what the Model T Ford was in the early 20th century.

And we’re saying this knowing full well that not everyone on our team wants a Model 3.

We’ll explain. Back in 1909 when the Model T Ford first launched, it sold for around $823 in its basic ‘runabout’ variant. According to the U.S. Government, the average wage (across all industries) in the U.S. one year later was $574 per year, with the highest earners bringing in more than double that, while the lowest-paid workers several hundred dollars less.

If we take the average salary, the Model T represented around a year and half’s salary for the average American. While we look back at the Model T as being the car that everyone could afford, the reality was different.  Initially, it was a car which only the wealthiest could afford. As time progressed and the car became cheaper, more and more Americans could afford it. And thus, the modern age of the automobile began.

The Model 3 could be as big as the Model T Ford -- and the math works out.

The Model 3 could be as big as the Model T Ford — and the math works out.

At an entry-level point of $35,000 before incentives, and — according to Musk himself — the expected ticket price of the ‘average’, fully-configured Model 3 being somewhere around $44,000 at purchase, the Tesla Model 3 might seem like a super-expensive car to many.

But depending on whom you listen too, the average salary of an average American in 2014/15 was somewhere between $44,000 and $54,000. The purchase price of the Model 3 in real-world terms is actually a fair bit cheaper than the Model T Ford was in its early days. Like the Model T Ford, we’re hoping too that Tesla reduces the Model 3 entry-level sticker price as time progresses, making the long-range electric car more affordable for more people.

(As a side, we note the Model T Ford, while revolutionary, required a far lot more maintenance than the Tesla Model 3 will require.)

Of course, you could make that same cost analysis against any other similarly-priced electric car on the market today. But what sets the Model 3 apart for now is the combination of charging network, sticker price, and range. In real-world terms, it should be cheaper to own and maintain than the Model T Ford was in its heydey.

The upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which will come to market well ahead of the Tesla Model 3, will also offer a similar range at a similar price. But GM is currently adamant that it won’t be investing large amounts of money on CCS quick charging to allow its customers to travel the kind of distances Tesla customers are looking forward to travelling with ease. The upcoming Nissan LEAF, which has yet to be unveiled, is rumored to do the same — but it’s unlikely to match the Model 3’s luggage and load-carrying capabilities.

We know other cars will exist, but we also think this will be the car that most look upon with fondness and gratitude in the future, if only due to the massive hype and 250,000+ reservation holders thus far who have expressed an interest in buying one.

The challenge for Tesla of course, is to turn those 250,000 reservations into orders and to bring those orders to market in double-quick time. (While that pre-order figure is far higher than any other electric car in history, it’s worth noting that it’s also about the number of cars that big companies like GM or Ford produce and sell in a single month). So far however, we’ve got to give Tesla its dues: the Tesla Model 3 is a car which is already changing the way people think about electric vehicles and it hasn’t even entered production yet.

There’s more

Of course, we could go on — but we think five is enough for now. Later this week, we’ll cover the flip side of the Model 3, and bring you Five Things We Don’t Like About The Tesla Model 3, as well as Five Things to Remember About the Tesla Model 3.

In the meantime, we’d like to hear your likes about this important car in the comments below.


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