Twelve things you need to know about the Tesla Model 3

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Twelve Things You Need To Know About The Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3. Photo: Aaron Gold

On the evening of March 31st, 2016, I watched as Tesla Motors unveiled what may be the most anticipated car of the decade, the Tesla Model 3. By the following Monday, more than 276,000 people had placed orders and put down (refundable) deposits. That's nearly four times as many cars as Volvo sold in the US in all of 2015.

Tesla still hasn't released all of the Model 3's specs and details, saying that will come in "part 2" of the reveal as the car gets closer to production. Meanwhile, here are twelve things we do know about the Tesla Model 3.

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1.  The Tesla Model 3's base price will be $35,000.

Elon Musk introduces the Tesla Model 3
Tesla founder Elon Musk introduces the Model 3 to a crowd of admirers. Photo: Aaron Gold

Tesla founder Elon Musk confirmed that the entry-level Model 3 will include a single-motor powertrain and hardware for the Supercharger quick-charge network. Tesla has not announced how high prices will go, though it's likely that prices will top out at $50,000 or more.

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2. The Model 3 will go well over 200 miles on a charge.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3. Photo © Tesla Motors

Musk confirmed that the goal for the $35,000 car was an EPA-rated range of 215 miles or better. Today, most electric vehicles (EVs) in the Model 3's price range have around 90 miles of EPA range. As with fuel economy figures, your mileage may vary: EV range varies with speed, use of accessories like air conditioning, and driving style.

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3. The Model 3 will be very quick.

Tesla Model 3 in motion
Tesla Model 3 in motion. Photo: Aaron Gold

 "We don't make slow cars," Musk quipped during the reveal event. The single-motor Model 3 will go from 0 to 60 in "under six seconds". I got a quick ride in a dual-motor all-wheel-drive Model 3 (read about my ride here) and the 0-60 run felt like around four-and-a-half seconds, though Musk has since said that production AWD cars will be even quicker.

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4. The Model 3's interior looks like a concept car.

Tesla Model 3 interior
Tesla Model 3 interior, with VP of engineering Doug Field at the wheel. Photo: Aaron Gold

Like the Model S and X, the Model 3 features a large screen in the center of the dashboard, but the screen is oriented horizontally. The Model 3 I rode in at the launch (see below) had instrumentation on the center screen, but Elon Musk has hinted that there may be changes to the production version.

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4. The Model 3 will have the capability for Autopilot.

Tesla Model 3 interior
Tesla Model 3 interior. Photo: Aaron Gold

The model 3 will come standard with the hardware for Tesla's Autopilot system, though only safety features, including front- and side- collision mitigation, will be enabled by default. Autopilot "convenience" features such as automated lane-changing and adaptive cruise control will be offered as an optional software package.

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6. The Model 3 has a panoramic roof to end all others.

Tesla Model 3 roof
Tesla Model 3's rear window extends up and over the back seat, giving the feeling of a full-glass roof. Photo: Tesla Motors

Lots of new cars have a second sunroof for the rear passengers, but the Model 3 goes way beyond with a rear window that extends up and over the rear seat to the middle of the car. Putting glass above the rear seat not only provides a good view, it also yields lots of headroom. A large-panel sunroof above the driver and a low dashboard completes the sensation of a nearly-all-glass roof.

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7. The Model 3 will have two trunks.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3. Photo: Tesla Motors

Like other Tesla vehicles, the Model 3 conceals its battery pack in the floor, with the electric drive motors mounted near the axles. This frees up space for a trunk both front and rear. Tesla has confirmed that the Model 3 has two trunks, though they haven't revealed the volume. With the seats folded down, Tesla did say the Model 3 will accommodate a seven-foot surfboard.

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8. The Model 3 will be a sedan, not a hatchback.

Tesla Model 3 roof
The big glass rear window dictates a sedan-style trunk rather than a hatchback. Photo: Aaron Gold

Though it is shaped like the Model S, the Model 3 will not get a hatch for cargo access. The giant rear window requires a cross-car brace at the bottom of the glass, precluding a hatch. In response to questions about the small trunk lid, Elon Musk said the opening may be enlarged on production cars.

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9. The Model 3's front end styling has not been finalized.

Tesla Model 3 front end
Tesla Model 3 front end. Photo: Aaron Gold

The Model 3's front end, which features solid sheet metal in the spot where other cars (including other Teslas) have a grille or a badge, has been criticized for making the car look unfinished. While the front end may not be aesthetically pleasing, it is no doubt great for aerodynamics; Musk says the Model 3 should have an incredibly low drag coefficient of 0.21 (compare that to 0.24 for the Model S). In reply to criticism, Musk has said that the Model 3's front end will receive "some tweaking". 

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10. Tesla Model 3 buyers could miss out on the Federal tax credit.

Tesla buyers line up at dealership
Buyers line up at Tesla's dealership in Burbank, CA, to put down a deposite on a Model 3. Photo © Aaron Gold

The Fed gives a tax credit of up to $7,500 for electric vehicles, but there is a cap. Once a manufacturer sells a total of 200,000 qualifying cars, the IRS will begin to reduce the tax credit starting three months after the quarter in which that sales target is hit. The credit drops to 50% for six months, then 25% for three months, then goes away. Tesla's production plan (including the current Model S and X) will take it will beyond 200,000 cars before current Model 3orders are filled. Elon Musk has said that Tesla will try to schedule deliveries so that "large numbers" of new customers will be able to take advantage of the tax credit. What of existing buyers? "We always try to maximize customer happiness even if that means a revenue shortfall in a quarter," Musk said. "Loyalty begets loyalty." That could imply discounts for existing Tesla owners who would otherwise miss out on the credit.

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11. Deliveries will start at the end of 2017… maybe.

Tesla Model 3 introduction
Reporters and fans clamor for the first look at (and first photos of) the Tesla Model 3. Photo: Aaron Gold

Tesla plans to begin delivering the Model 3 at the end of 2017, but during the introduction, Elon Musk added "I feel fairly confident." Volume production may not start in earnest before 2018.

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12. The Tesla Model 3 is already facing competition.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt
2017 Chevrolet Bolt. Photo © General Motors

General Motors has its own 200-mile electric car in the works, the Chevrolet Bolt (not to be confused with the Chevrolet Volt). The Bolt will go from 0-60 in under seven seconds (making it a bit slower than the Model 3) and like the Model 3 it will have fast-charging capabilities. The Bolt is also closer to production—Chevrolet says it will go on sale at the end of 2016, about a year before Tesla Model 3 deliveries are scheduled to begin.