The Tesla Model 3 is one of the most anticipated vehicles of all time. The Californian company received nearly 400,000 pre-orders, worth upward of $10 billion, simply by showing off a close-to-production prototype. No other automaker has ever pulled off such a feat.
That’s because the all-electric Model 3 is what electric-car fans from all over the globe have been waiting for since the launch of the original Roadster — a Tesla designed and built for the masses. Production started ahead of schedule, and on July 28 of last year, Tesla delivered the first 30 cars during a special event at its headquarters. The Model 3 should already be crisscrossing the nation’s roads, but significant production problems have forced Tesla to delay volume production.
From its range and features to its price and launch date, here’s everything we know about it.
Pricing and availability
The entry-level Tesla Model 3 costs $35,000 before the $7,500 federal tax credit and local incentives are factored in. Buyers can pay extra for additional features such as a bigger battery pack (which is a $9,000 option), the Premium Upgrades package, Enhanced Autopilot, 19-inch wheels, and metallic paint colors.
The Tesla Model 3 is the company’s most important model because it will make or break the brand; getting it right the first time is crucial. Consequently, the first cars went to reservation holders who work at SpaceX or at Tesla. Musk expected his employees would be more tolerant of the issues that often plague new cars early on in the production run than customers coming from brands like Audi and Mercedes-Benz. With these sorted out, the company has started customer deliveries.
Tesla raised $1.2 billion to launch the Model 3 and it went to great lengths to avoid costly delays — it all looked good on paper, too, but things haven’t exactly gone as planned. Series production started on July 7 of last year, and posting on his personal Twitter account, Musk predicted about 1,500 would be assembled in September, and 20,000 in December. That meant many reservation holders wouldn’t get their car until 2018 at the earliest.
Unfortunately, however, that timeline has been delayed. Tesla made 2,025 examples of the Model 3 during the last week of March. Wired adds production totaled 9,766 examples during the first quarter of 2018, which averages out to about 800 cars per week. Bloomberg made a Model 3 tracker that provides production information.
However, Tesla has finally ramped up production to 3,500 units per week, and now, we’re getting a look at how it managed to increase production numbers. Tesla apparently created a so-called “tent,” another building that contains yet another general assembly line. They’ve effectively doubled the processes in order to ramp up production and meet their 5,000 unit per week target. Apparently, the temporary building was constructed in just two weeks, and the assembly line was created “using scrap we had in the warehouses,” Musk said. “And it’s way better than the other GA (general assembly) line that cost hundreds of millions!” the CEO added on Twitter.
High res photos of the length of the $TSLA tent assembly line.From the last 24 hours.
— skabooshka (@skabooshka) June 19, 2018
This is the alien dreadnaught Elon promised: hand-building cars. pic.twitter.com/LgDOBncZze
— skabooshka (@skabooshka) June 19, 2018
Still, Tesla has some major bottlenecks to address before hitting its previously stated goal of 5,000 Model 3s per week. Musk recently wrote an email to employees noting that a number of areas in the company are in need of “radical improvements.” He also noted, “I will be at our Fremont factory almost 24/7 for the next several days checking in with those groups to make sure they have as many resources as they can handle.”
What happened? According to Tesla, prepping and operating some initial systems took longer than anticipated, creating a bottleneck. Sources told The Wall Street Journal many of the Model 3’s parts were being built by hand because the assembly line was not ready, while insiders pointed to difficulties with battery pack production in the company’s Nevada Gigafactory. Still, the company noted in a statement, “it is important to emphasize that there are no fundamental issues with the Model 3 production or supply chain. We understand what needs to be fixed and we are confident of addressing the manufacturing bottleneck issues in the near-term.”
To keep things simple, Tesla will only manufacture the rear-wheel drive variant of the Tesla Model 3 for the first year of the production run. The all-wheel drive, dual-motor model will arrive when production reaches 5,000 cars per week. Musk wrote on Twitter that will likely happen this summer. Current reservation holders who don’t want a rear-wheel drive car will be first in line to get an all-wheel drive model. Delivery wait times are getting very long, and Musk warned that buyers who want one before 2019 need to make a reservation as soon as possible. He’s also been trying to anti-sell the car, worried it will cannibalize Model S sales.
Drivetrain and performance
We recently drove the Model 3 and concluded it “exceeds every expectation we’ve thrown its way – as both an attainable EV and luxury sport sedan.” It easily keeps up with the BMW 3 Series, which was once considered the gold standard in the sports sedan segment and among the best sports cars available. The $35,000 base model (50 kWh) offers 220 miles of range and a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.6 seconds, while a $44,000 version (70 kWh) ups the ante with 310 miles of range, a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.1 seconds, and a top speed of 140 mph. However, according to a new EPA document (via Electrek), the Model 3 achieved an EPA-cycle range of 334 miles, meaning Tesla might be underselling the vehicle’s performance to keep its customers happy with their real-world results.
The Tesla Model 3 benefits from advances in battery technology that were recently inaugurated by the ultra-quick P100D versions of the Model S and the Model X. The company’s newest battery pack is much denser than its predecessor, and it gets a comprehensively updated cooling system. Battery production takes place in the Gigafactory, a massive complex located on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada.
Model 3 owners can use Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations, but there’s a catch. Unlike Model S and Model X owners, they need to pay every time they plug their car into a Supercharger. Tesla says the service will “cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car,” though rates haven’t been announced yet. The company is expecting high demand, so it’s been increasing the size of its charging station network over the past few months. We might even see small convenience stores pop up at Supercharger stations to keep users occupied as they wait for a full charge.
According to Autocar, CEO Elon Musk has confirmed the Tesla Model 3’s battery packs — 50 kWh and 70 kWh. Furthermore, Musk stated a performance version is due in mid-2018. Details about the performance edition are nil, but if the Model S is any indicator, it will use a dual-motor, all-wheel drive setup. Considering the Model 3 weighs 400 pounds less than the Model S, the right battery could make the Model 3 even faster than the fastest Model S. Tesla previously confirmed the P100D’s 100kWh pack will not be available in the 3 because its wheelbase is too short, but the 3 will be available with the Ludicrous mode that cemented the Model S’s spot as one of the quickest vehicles on the planet. No, it is not one of the world’s fastest cars — but it is close.