Updated on 06-16-2015 by Miles Branman: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Tesla’s Model 3 would have a driving range of at least 250 miles, but the correct figure is at least 200 miles. A misleading initial report had misquoted Elon Musk. Below is his interview on the topic.
The world is patiently waiting for Tesla’s “common man” offering, and now we have even more reason to look forward to a Tesla compact sedan. CEO Elon Musk has revealed the Model III will achieve a driving range of at least 200 miles on a single charge, and in Musk’s words, “hopefully a fair bit more than that.”
By comparison to the startup automaker’s current vehicles, the most frugal Model S achieves a range of 253 miles while the Roadster can go for 245 miles. Considering the new Model 3 will be far less expensive than both of those EVs, a 200-plus mile range is quite good. Add in the supercharger stations cropping up across the country and range anxiety becomes much less of an issue.
Elon Musk also revealed the second key figure in the Model 3’s attraction, its price. Set for reveal in March of 2016, with deliveries beginning in 2017, the Model 3 will cost just $35,000. That figure will undercut the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt, which will cost $38,000 and have a range of 200 miles.
Tesla cites dropping battery prices and improved charging infrastructure for its ability to put forth an electric vehicle like the Model 3. Musk was quick to point out that charging stations are also only needed where people congregate, like at offices and travel checkpoints, because 90 percent of current Tesla vehicle charging takes place at home.
Before the Model 3 makes it to Tesla anti-dealerships, the Model X crossover will begin deliveries. First buyers of the Model X will receive their cars in three to four months. The electric crossover is expected to get up to 230 miles on a single charge and starts at $80,000 before a $7,500 tax credit.
Unless the rest of the automotive industry does a dramatic bit of catching up, Tesla is set to sell absurd quantities of Model 3s. All that remains to be seen is how many hiccups the compact sedan will have on its way to mainstream. The Model X, for example, was scheduled for production at the end of 2014 before it was delayed to late this year. If the Model 3 is put on hold for any reason, Tesla could miss the opportunity to take full ownership of the affordable, long-range EV market.
Other automakers, like BMW and Toyota, believe the future of alternative energy vehicles will be propped up by hydrogen fuel cells, but Elon Musk has publicly criticized how difficult and expensive fuel cells are to develop and use in a car. Musk specifically called out the arduous process of “Splitting water, taking the hydrogen, dumping the oxygen, compressing that hydrogen to an extremely high pressure or liquefying it, and then putting it in a car and running a fuel cell.”
Time will tell which alternative energy process goes the distance, but for now, Tesla seems poised to move the electric vehicle industry from obscurity to widespread attainability.