US electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors last night unveiled for the first time its new mass-market car known as the Model 3.
Priced at $35,000 this vehicle is Tesla’s cheapest yet, and will mark its transition from a luxury car manufacturer to a more general consumer company.
The Model 3 is able to accelerate from 0 to 60mph (96.5km/h) in under six seconds, and has a range of around 215 miles (346km) on a single battery charge.
“At Tesla, we don’t make slow cars – and of course there will be versions of the Model 3 that go much faster,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the unveiling event.
In addition it is compatible with Tesla’s expanding network of ‘Supercharger’ stations, enabling long distance cross-country travel.
Aesthetically, the vehicle draws many design cues from its predecessors, the Model S and Model X, include its single glass-panel roof.
Internally, the car features no dashboard display, instead removing it in place of a single centrally-located touch screen, in order to free up more passenger leg room.
As well, the car also comes equipped with a large number of sensors enabling the use of semi-autonomous ‘Autopilot’ driving, which the company debuted last year.
Tesla claims that the 5-seater Model 3 will have strong safety requirements as well, with a 5-star rating in all categories targeted.
While the vehicle was shown off to the media and public last night, these were only demonstrators, and the final mass-market version may feature significant changes.
Road to profitability
Tesla’s technological progress has been hailed by the media, however their business is still unprofitable.
Last year the company made a loss of $889m, mainly due to the huge investments in research and development.
The company likely sees the Model 3 as its best hope of becoming a profitable company, and is targeting an eventual output of 500,000 of these vehicles a year.
Despite being available for pre-order with a $1000 deposit, the first Model 3 vehicles will not be delivered to customers until late 2017.
But, as Elon Musk revealed during the presentation, in just the 24 hours leading up to the vehicle’s launch, 115,000 people had already pre-ordered the vehicle, making a target of half a million sales look reasonably modest.
In order to achieve its 500k sale target, the company has recently completed the construction of its ‘Gigafactory’ complex in Nevada, which is tasked with producing the massive number of lithium-ion batteries needed for the vehicles as well as the Tesla Powerwall.