Tesla enthusiasts just got a new car to dream about, and this time they won’t have to shell out six figures to buy one.
On Thursday, co-founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Model 3, pitched as its first affordable electric car intended for a mass market.
The company pre-orders for the supercharged sedan hit 198,000. The car will start at $35,000; buyers placed $1,000 down before they even saw it. Musk expects that deliveries of the Model 3 will begin by the end of 2017.
Ziegler said the Model 3 “feels like a Tesla.” He said if you’ve had a chance to ride in a Model S or Model X, the car “gives you a good sense of what Tesla’s all about — they’re all about acceleration, premium interior, a great design on the exterior.”
However, with only 120 seconds to ride in the car, Ziegler said he is reserving judgment for when it comes out next year.
“This is a make-or-break model for Tesla,” Ziegler said. “It’s not an overstatement to say this is the most important car that they’ve made or that they are going to make”
Ziegler said the Model 3 presented two challenges for Tesla, creating an electric car that was affordable and had battery range.
“A car with 80 to 100 miles of range gives you some pretty serious range anxiety,” Ziegler said. “That makes it difficult to take cross country trips with the car. Tesla is promising a minimum of 215 miles of range which makes it more practical.”
While Tesla must compete with other electric cars like the Chevy Volt, the company has turned the lack of electric car infrastructure into a competitive advantage: providing free charges at Supercharging stations.
“There are about 3,600 Superchargers globally right now,” Ziegler said. “Those are the special proprietary fast-charging systems that Tesla offers free to all of its customers.”
By the end 2017, Tesla expects to double the amount of Superchargers, right in time for the Model 3 to hit the road.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect inaccuracies in transcribing some of Chris Ziegler’s comments, namely in the range of miles for the Model 3, and in the number of Supercharger stations.