The last chapter of the Oil Age began last night, as Tesla officially presented its mass-market, long-range EV. Elon Musk drove his baby onto the stage at the Fremont factory to take some well-earned bows and thank his team.
As expected, the interior is spare and clean, with nothing to break up the dashboard but a touchscreen. “The cars will be increasingly autonomous,” said Musk, “so you won’t really need to look at an instrument panel all that often. You’ll be able to do whatever you want…watch a movie, talk to friends, go to sleep.” Yes, there is a cupholder.
As promised, the $35,000 Standard variant has all the features that make a Tesla a Tesla: 220 miles of range (EPA estimated); a 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds; and all the hardware necessary for full autonomy. The optional Long Range Battery ($9,000) boosts the range to 310 miles (and shaves half a second off the 0-60 time). Enhanced Autopilot adds limited self-driving capabilities, including self-parking, for $5,000. Full Self-Driving Capability will be available in the future for another $3,000, but it will be “dependent upon extensive software validation and regulatory approval, which may vary by jurisdiction.”
Tesla is determined to make its vehicles the safest on the road. Musk presented a video showing a side crash test being performed on Model 3 and the venerated Volvo S60, which he called “arguably the second-safest car in the world.”
With uncharacteristic understatement, Musk said, “The thing that’s going to be the major challenge for us over the next 6-9 months is, how do we build a huge number of cars.” Then he dropped his formal pose and said, “Frankly, we’re going to be in production hell. Welcome to production hell!” Musk told Ars Technica that the Model 3 reservation count is now “over half a million.” If you order a Model 3 today, you’ll probably get it “by the end of next year.” Musk assured reservation holders that Tesla “really cares” about getting them their cars as soon as possible.
The first drive reviews are accumulating, mostly raves of course. Motor Trend, called the 3 “the most important vehicle of the century.” Car and Driver notes the lack of an instrument cluster: “Behind the steering wheel is nothing but windshield. It’s disorienting for the first few minutes and then you never notice it again.” TechCrunch’s reviewer was so impressed with his brief test drive that he’s ready to place an order. Even Business Insider, a reliable Tesla skeptic, wrote that Model 3 “changes everything – the entire world will want this car.”
Musk wrapped up his presentation with a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has bought a Model S or X. “You make the 3 possible. The money that we make [on an S or X] all goes into building Model 3.” That may not be what the Wall Street types who are impatient for Tesla to start posting profits want to hear, but it’s strong stuff for us true believers: Musk and his team are changing the world.