In Depth

Tesla Model 3: referral codes, prices, range, reviews and UK release

Elon Musk hints that the budget EV’s arrival in Europe isn’t far off

Tesla Model 3: Performance version to arrive 'next year'

31 July

A "performance" version of the Tesla Model 3 is due to arrive next year, founder Elon Musk has revealed.

Asked when a faster version of the saloon was planned, the inventor tweete: "Probably middle of next year. Focus now is on getting out of Model 3 production hell."

While there's no mention of what differences a performance version would have over the standard Model 3, Electrek says it expects it to come with the regular car's 310-mile battery pack along with "a dual motor all-wheel-drive system". 

It has the potential to be even quicker than the company's range-topping Model S saloon, adds the site, as it is "almost 1,000lbs lighter".

Musk's comments came shortly after Tesla held a handover party for the first 30 customers to pre-order the electric saloon at its factory in Fairmont, California. 

The event also saw the confirmation of prices for the company's first mass-production saloon with The Verge reporting the entry-level Model 3 will go on the market for $35,000 (£27,000) while a version with a longer battery life will be priced at $44,000 (£34,000). 

The base model gets a 220-mile battery pack, five miles more than originally believed, and a zero to 60mph time of 5.6secs. The range-topping version comes with a 310-mile range and drops 0.5secs off the zero to 60mph time of its cheaper sibling. 

Tesla's Model 3 packs "a streamlined dashboard devoid of buttons or knobs", says the Daily Mail, along with "a 15ins touchscreen display to the right of the driver."

UK prices have yet to be announced and more details are expected when Tesla ramps up deliveries later this year.

Tesla Model 3: Handover party and release date

28 July

Tesla is gearing up for the launch of its Model 3 saloon this year, which is set to become the first mass-production electric vehicle to enter the mainstream market. 

It will be the California-based car company's cheapest model to date, produced to rival many similarly priced small saloons powered by conventional combustion engines.  

The firm has already taken hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for the Model 3, most of which were placed shortly after the car made its debut last March. Customers had to pay a £1,000 deposit to be among the first to get the eagerly anticipated EV. 

But Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk has since revealed that the first year of production is "sold out", meaning many customers who pre-ordered the car won't receive it until the end of 2018.

The Model 3 will launch with a host of self-driving features and will be fitted with the necessary hardware to improve its driverless functions in future. Much like its Model S and X siblings, the Model 3 will be designed to receive monthly software and firmware updates through the company's Autopilot programme. 

Here's everything you need to know about the electric saloon.

Design

Musk revealed the first production in July and it bares a striking resemblance to both the concept version and Tesla's range-topping Model S saloon.

While its design incorporates numerous features from the firm's line-up, there are a handful of subtle tweaks that separate the Model 3 from its siblings - most notably the absence of a front grille and larger headlights.

The simple shape also serves a purpose, allowing the electric saloon to easily pass through the air and get more life from its batteries - Tesla is targeting a drag coefficient of just 0.21cd. 

Its proportions are smaller and more compact than the flagship Model S, but it retains the larger saloon's chrome accents around the windows and tail light cluster. The Model 3 may look as if it has a hatchback boot, but it actually has a compact lid hinged at the bottom of the rear window. A panoramic glass roof will also be available. 

There's a chance more variants will become available in the future, says Electrek, such as versions with larger boots and "bigger rear hatches". 

The production version will be offered with alloy wheels that look similar to those that appeared on the concept. Images posted on Electrek show wheel covers can also be specced, which could improve the car's drag coefficient.

Interior

One of the most striking features is the 15ins horizontal touchscreen, located just above the centre console. It's expected to control everything from the Model 3's driverless systems to the in-car entertainment system.

While some expressed disappointment at the lack of a conventional speedometer on the dashboard, Musk tweeted to disgruntled fans that they "won't care" about the minimalistic cabin, implying the rest of the car will be worth it. 

He later confirmed that drivers will still be able to access conventional vehicle information on the Model 3, saying the "centre screen will show speed as an overlay that changes opacity according to relevance". 

BGR reports that the clutter-free cabin will "make more sense" in the future, while the lack of controls and items with which the driver can interact, beyond the central touchscreen, steering wheel and pedals, could possibly hint to the car's driverless capabilities. 

Practicality

The Model 3 looks set to be more practical than the pre-production prototype Tesla has shown.

For starters, the car's tiny boot opening is set to change. Musk has taken on board customer qualms that it was too small to be practical and the company claims it has addressed the issue, meaning it should be easier to load larger items.

There are no official dimensions for neither boot nor passenger space yet, but the Model 3 is a smaller car than the Model S saloon.

Electrek says the interior space will be flexible, thanks to folding seats, while Bloomberg cites "sources familiar with the final design" who say that the rear pew will fold completely flat.

With the seats down, the car's cargo bay will stretch from the back of the front seats to the end of the boot, opening up around 66ins of room.

Self-driving technology

Although it's being positioned as the entry-level model in the line-up, the Model 3 will be packed with Tesla self-driving features. The Model S saloon and Model X SUV are already available with driverless Autopilot software, which is regularly improved through over-air updates.

All Model 3s will be equipped with the necessary hardware to achieve Level 5 autonomy as standard, which means the car can drive itself without the intervention of a driver. However, Eletrek says the time period for this to appear on Tesla's cars depends on "on software validation and regulatory approval".

While Model 3s will be capable of having Autopilot features, buyers are required to pay a premium to unlock them. For ideas about price, that's a £5,000 option on the Model S when ordering the car and costs £6,000 if the buyer decides to wait until after the vehicle has been ordered.

Full safe-driving features can be added for £3,000, allowing drivers to conduct short trips with no physical steering or pedal inputs, although it won't be activated for a few years.

Power and Performance

Tesla has yet to divulge the performance figures of the Model 3, but a leaked specs sheet reported in Engadget claims the entry-level saloon will go from zero to 60mph in 5.6secs - a mere 0.1secs slower than the more expensive Model S 75. 

It has also been confirmed that the car will get Ludicrous Mode, which momentarily increases the car's battery output for better acceleration. It is currently an £8,300 option on the Model S saloon.

One way to increase the performance of the Model 3 is to spec a dual-motor powertrain. According to CarBuyer, drivers will be offered a dual-motor option with an all-wheel drive layout - a configuration also offered on the Model S. This should offer significantly quicker acceleration times than two-wheel drive versions. 

Charging and range

Tesla says the Model 3 will be capable of at least 220 miles on a single charge, but a leaked image posted by Electrek suggests buyers may get even more. 

The interior shot reveals a car that has used up around 30 per cent of its battery power - yet still has 95 miles left of power. 

"It would mean that the range could easily reach over 300 miles" on a full charge, which is significantly more than the advertised range, says Electrek. 

The Model 3 is said to come with a battery pack that is smaller than 60kWh, with more options available later into the car's lifecycle, one of which could offer the rumoured 300-mile range.

One of the more puzzling aspects of the Model 3 has been the issue of charging. Tesla's network of Supercharger stations has been growing around key routes across the US and Europe, allowing drivers quick - and free - top-ups on the move. It's crucial to making long distance journeys with an all-electric vehicle a realistic proposition.

At the car's reveal, Musk said owners would get access to the stations and it appeared they would also be offered free charging. However, he has since said this won't come as standard and many now believe speccing it could be one of the car's most expensive options. Supercharging will come in at around £2,500 as a one-off payment, either when buying the car or through a software upgrade further down the line.

However, a report in The Verge says new Tesla owners will be able to charge their car for free if they receive a referral code from an existing buyer.

Anyone who bought a car before 1 January can send a code for free charging to up to five friends, says the site, and that is expected to include Model 3 owners when the car launches this year.

Prices, release and production

Deliveries for the Model 3 are expected in July, with several production-spec test cars being seen around the company's home state of California, says Electrek.

Only three colours have been spotted - blue, white and black, the same paint schemes available on pre-orders.

Drivers who have already put down their £1,000 for the car have been offered the chance to book a test drive scheduled to take place in "late 2017", says Electrek. 

Prices for UK buyers have yet to be announced, but Alphr says entry-level Models 3s are expected to cost $35,000 (£27,000). If true, it would be one of the cheapest ways into the electric car market: the electric Ford Focus costs £31,680 and has around half the battery life of the Model 3.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said last year that the Model 3's first 12 months of production had "sold out", which means ordering after last October are unlikely to receive their car until 2018.

It was meant to be the 'Model E'

Musk revealed during a conference call with investors that the Model 3 was originally to be called "Model E", but a legal dispute with Ford lead to the car being rebranded.

The inventor says he believed the new name was a "clever" take on Model E, but admits the move to a number gave fans the wrong impression and that its number had led some to think the Model 3 was taking over as the brand's flagship car.

"We're doing our best to clear up that confusion so people do not think that Model 3 is somehow superior to Model S", he said. 

To clear the confusion with buyers, Musk added, the company will take an unorthodox marketing approach when it launches the Model 3. 

Tesla will "anti-sell" its entry-level saloon in an effort to show fans that the Model S "will be better" because it's "a more expensive car", he said. There will be no advertising for the new model and journalists will not be invited for test drives when it goes on sale towards the end of the year.

Elon Musk needs more money

Musk is asking investors for another $1.15bn (£938m) for production of the Model 3, reports Quartz.

Tesla wants to reach around six times its current volume of EV production and while the company's founder said last month that costs are under control, he added that more funds might be needed in order to avoid the schedule getting derailed.

According to a Tesla blog post, Musk himself will be putting up $25m (£20m) in common stock: "Tesla today announced offerings of $250 million of common stock and $750 million aggregate principal amount of convertible senior notes due in 2022 in concurrent underwritten registered public offerings," it says.

Commentators are unimpressed. EconoTimes says cost overruns are "particularly problematic for a car maker with Tesla's history" and it "simply cannot afford" further delays.

"The company has never made a deadline and has always fallen behind on its promises," it adds.

Adding to the pressure on Musk is leading US automaker General Motors' hopes to challenge Tesla's lower-priced model with its own Bolt electric vehicle.

Tesla Model 3: Elon Musk reveals first production car

10 July

Tesla founder Elon Musk has unveiled the company's first Model 3 electric saloon to roll off the production line. 

Images of the car posted by the South African-born inventor reveal it has a similar design to the range-topping Model S saloon, including the tail light cluster and chrome accents around the windows.

The Model 3 pictured belongs to Musk himself, TechCrunch reports. The "first pre-order customer gifted Musk his place in the queue as a birthday present", says the site.

The car's black paintwork is "a good callback to the original Model T from Ford", which revolutionised the motoring industry by introducing the production line, helping lower the cost of car ownership.

Like the Model T, the Model 3 is the cheapest car Tesla offers and will be produced in high numbers in a bid to get more motorists to drive electric cars.

Last week, Musk tweeted that production will grow "exponentially" over the coming months, with 100 units scheduled to be built in August and more than 1,500 in September. This is expected to grow to 20,000 in December, he added.

According to The Verge, production will rise to 500,000 units per year. The car has already amassed 400,000 pre-orders, with customers paying a £1,000 deposit to secure one.

Official UK pricing has yet to be announced, but Alphr says the Model 3 will come with a $35,000 (£27,000) price tag for buyers in the US.

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