Tesla Model 3 Leaks… Small Ones (CleanTechnica Exclusive)

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Update: This article originally stated that Bernard Lee was the Tesla employee Daniel talked to, but it was actually David Imai.

One of our readers, Daniel Hoffmann, was recently sitting in his hotel lobby waiting to check in when he overheard someone next to him talking on the phone… and then booking tickets on behalf of Tesla Motors. Eager to take advantage of the opportunity, Daniel found out that the guy was manager of exterior designer at Tesla Motors — David Imai. (Wow — not a bad fellow to talk to.)

David Imai
David Imai

Digging further, Daniel asked, “you know how the Tesla Model 3 looks like, right?” That apparently generated a light laugh. That might have been the end of the conversation for a mere mortal, but this was a CleanTechnica reader.

Despite not being willing to chat much (understandably), the Tesla designer did tell our reader that the Model 3 will be amazing and it will have a very special design. Hmm… very special, eh?

Here’s more from Daniel:

I also asked him if it will be a shrunken Model S, and he said it will be similar, BUT it will have very special design. I also asked if there will be any delay, and he said very firmly “no”. I also asked if the March showcasing is on, and it is (he was surprised I knew the month). Unfortunately he seemed very busy, so I couldn’t annoy him any longer. But it seems that they are not trying to make a cheap design for their “cheap” model. I’m really happy about that, because if I wouldn’t buy a Model S, then the Model 3 is an obvious choice.


Well, I don’t think that’s going to help much with the agonizing wait for the Model 3.

For more on the Model 3, also see:

Tesla Model Y & Tesla Model 3 Prototypes In This Pic?

Tesla CTO JB Straubel: Model 3 Is Going To Be Mostly New

Tesla Model 3 Pricing Revealed For UK Market?

Tesla Model 3 Or Model Y Will Have Falcon-Wing Doors, Model Xs

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83 thoughts on “Tesla Model 3 Leaks… Small Ones (CleanTechnica Exclusive)

  • Nice. Another drop in the bucket that is Model 3. The wait though…yeah, that’s going to be rough 🙁 #firstworldproblems

  • March is not a long way to see their concept car. Delay is a relative term, especially to Musk who constantly move the goal posts and tweets more features.

    • I think they should fix all the small leaks before they start production.

      • That sort of thinking destroyed my colander manufacturing business.

      • Joseph, what are you doing reading a Tesla article?

        First word in the title. Surely you saw it?

    • mam i am interested in electric model vehicle. you could help me

  • I hope they don’t blunder on the rear seat head and leg room, like the Volt. I mean, really GM, really? I can see you want the Volt for a sporty look, fine, then BUILD a Wagon Version. Subaru has made a science of building off the SAME Platform.

    • A higher version would be great but unlikely. Like the Toyota Avensis which had the Avensis Verso Model version…not a full minivan but a high and spacious 7 seater smaller (narrower) than the Touran or Voyager.

      • Jenny – The original concept was to have an S,E,X, and Y. The E is a 3 now. My crystal ball sees the 3 as a BMW 3 series contender. The Y is more like a RAV-4. Both of these vehicles will have the Tesla treatment, with a flat floor, front trunk, and excellent aerodynamics.
        There are some interesting possibilities for a small minivan with a low center of gravity, a flat floor, and a front trunk. There is currently a surge in interest in mini-SUVs.

    • IMO, the biggest failure of the new Volt is the back seat floor hump, a casualty of GMs battery pack design, a vestige of patents and ideas dating all the way back to the EV-1. You can add a fifth seat, but sitting in it is like riding a motorcycle.
      There is little chance of that with Tesla. They will undoubtedly use a skateboard pack and have both a flat floor and a frunk. (front trunk)

  • Daniel Hoffmann, awesome job! Thanks for sharing the information.

  • Seems like I recall Musk saying that the 3 would not look like any other car….

    • Hope that doesn’t mean it is ugly like the BMW i3 is.

      • You say “ugly,” I say “futuristic.”

        • Ugly as sin

      • I also say ugly.

        • And I’m an EV and BMW fanatic.

          • it’s obviously a subjective matter. i know several people who love it, and i love it. i think the majority of people don’t, but it’s really subjective.

          • I caught a quick glimpse of one in my neighborhood a week or two ago. * I * thought it was cute.

          • Thanks. 😀 **I** think cute is a good way to describe it. 😀

      • I think the i3 has an interesting look. Reminds of a toaster on steroids.

    • Now I’m getting more concerned.

  • I don’t even need to see the car. I have a Model S now. I trust the 3 will be awesome. If I could put deposits down today, it would be for two. One for son, one for wife. I have 8 friends, most of them less than $30k annual income, who all are “chompin’ at the bit” to put down a deposit.

    • Sounds like you’ve plenty of money. Why not buy one for each of your poor friends too? 🙂

    • Reality check, Gene. I make just under $30K a year and my wife just a little more than that. Even with our combined incomes, there would be absolutely no way we could financially qualify to buy a single new car for half our combined incomes. People who make $30K a year don’t buy cars that equal their entire annual incomes. Most have no savings, other debts, etc.

      Additionally, a single person making $60K annually is probably going to have a harder time financially qualify for any given car that if it was being purchased by a married couple with combined incomes of $60K.

      Both our cars are used compacts. Both cost us about $7500 each. One (my wife’s) is a 2007 Honda Fit. I just got back from California yesterday (we’re in Arizona) and I’m now officially the owner of a 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV. As we speak, it’s being flatbedded across the desert and I should have it in my driveway by tomorrow afternoon.

      And, yeah, I’m a happy camper. If anybody told me 5 years ago that I’d actually be able to afford a used EV (and I’m not talking about a 20 year converted clunker with lead acid batteries taking over the back seat and trunk,) I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m simply happy that someone with a far greater discretionary income than mine decided to become an early EV adopter and leased this car, which was around a $30K new purchase back in 2012.

      I’m optimistically waiting for the Model 3, the Bolt and the next gen Leaf to be introduced. But I can’t afford new examples of any of them. Realistically, neither can any of your “chompin’ at the bit” friends. Yet I’m also hoping as many people who would be buying a new car for $30K in the next couple of years (combined family or individual incomes of around $90K or just above, I’m guessing, is who would qualify for such a thing) will buy as many of these new EVs as possible, instead of stupid, wasteful ICE SUVs.

      • You should drive your new-to-you EV for a couple of months and combine that experience and this comment into an article.

        Congrats. I wonder how long I’ll have to wait for a used Mod3?

        (I’m guessing too long so I better start saving up for a new one five years from now. About the time I’ll need a car that drives me.)

        • Thanks, Bob. It got delivered this morning and has already been driven around town on errands and just for fun. No buyers remorse as of now. After pushing the assets of EVs onto so many people these past few years, it’s very satisfying to be able to put my money where my mouth is and finally get one for myself.

          And, yes, I’ve got an interesting tale to tell on how I found it online, the mostly positive experience working with the dealership, how my credit union helped out (it the first EV they’ve financed, apparently,) an interesting visit I made to Mitsubishi’s North American while I was in the L.A.area on Wednesday and the final steps of securing a shipping service to bring the car back home. I’ll type something up over the long Thanksgiving weekend, pick out a few photos and get in touch with Zach. Followups after a few months of ownership also to follow.

          Regarding a used Model 3: assuming this will be a 2018-19 rollout and many will be leased for 3 years, it will be 2021-22 when we see the first wave of used ones showing up in meaningful quantities. My wife’s Fit will be looking pretty long in the tooth by then and it’s not inconceivable that we’ll be putting one of these on the short list.

      • Not everyone makes such poor financial decisions with their income. I make near poverty level, but since I have no bills, no mortgage, no rent, no credit cards… Almost every penny of it is fun money. Qualify for financing? I can just buy it. Like responsible people do…

        • There are many of us (mostly older folks) who have few bills (no house payments for example) and can afford to spend a lot more than the percentage used for working people who have more bills and need to invest for retirement.

  • Model 3 won’t be deliverrr on time and on price target just like all the other Tesla models. Wanna bet?

    • So what?

      Tesla is so far out ahead of other manufacturers that a delay is not important.

      Haters gonna hate…

    • Tesla is a very young company, and the guys that started it were not experienced car manufacturers. They did an insane amount of new in a very short time. It is very difficult to predict how long it will take to do something you haven’t ever done before, however they have clearly learned ALOT in the last few years, and have gotten some real experience, so they may surprise you. That said, I think ramping up to full rate isn’t going to be instantaneous. They have to becareful not to ship too many problems they have to fix.

  • I, for one, would be *very* happy with a shrunken Model S.

    It having a “very special design” makes me a bit anxious, but fingers are crossed.

    • “Very special design” makes me squirm a bit. My mind turns to the Aptera….

      • Careful, Bob. I had an early deposit on an Aptera. Wish I were driving it now.
        And to Frank, it was when the Aptera Board of Directors brought in “experienced car manufacturers” from Detroit that the whole start-up began to fall apart. From its first couple of years, the track record of the Tesla S suggests Musk and company know how to make success happen.

    • Yes, “very special design” sets off a few alarm bells but Musk and his merry men have done such an outstanding job so far I’m inclined to keep faith.

  • Oooo, a _very_ special design? That’s exactly 20% more special than your standard special design! I can’t wait!

  • I hope it’s a wagon/crossover. Bigger version of Bolt.

    • Model 3 will be a sedan. Model Y will be a small SUV/crossover based on same general platform, but possibly with Falcon Wing Doors (according to a deleted Tweet from EM). I think it would be cool to do the Y with *only* falcon wing doors. Since it will be smaller than the X, they could probably do front and rear seat access with a single FWD on each side. I expect the Y is significantly further away than the 3. Musk is ambitious but I don’t think he’d simultaneously try to develop a new affordable sedan *and* crossover at the same time. He’s gotta get that affordable model 3 out there to make good on his promise to offer electric mobility to the masses.

      • I was thinking the same thing on the falcon wing. He’s putting it in the X to get it right for prime time. The design had strategic importance beyond the X or abandoning it would have been the better play than this huge delay. And one door seems the way of the future.

        Battery provides side crash protection than side pillar.

        The “very different car” hints make me hopeful 3 won’t be a sedan. I’m not waiting for Y.

        I don’t think they like sedans. After all, Model S is a 5 door. Fingers crossed.

        • I’m quite positive I’ve heard Elon say in a recent interview or two that it would be a sedan. That said, they are pretty loose with their terminology. We’ll see.

          • Watch – it’ll be a “sedan” with 3 falcon wing doors.

  • i have one idea to long time sustainable electricity produced to e car

    • Which is?

  • Dear Mr. Musk and Team Tesla,

    I am an unabashed, Tesla supporter. I wish to remind you of Ray Kroc’s “KISS” principle – keep it simple… No offense, a low cd may make great press but a simple, trouble free, profitable, stylish sedan/CUV will impress your bottom line, the
    street, TSLA shareholders, and will rock Big ICE’s foundation.

    Shooting for the moon for a halo car like the Model S and Model X is acceptable but now we are talking bread and butter – not croissants, scones. Make it stylish but please remember, this is a quantity production car. The BMW 3 Series, which may be the gold standard, is no “Venus de Milo” aesthetically – it doesn’t need presenting door handles just handles that work all the time. The Model 3 does not have to be a halo car, it just has to be compelling and competitive.

    Finally, I emphasize making the Model 3 profitable and upgradable. Some buyers will regret not ordering certain “software’ options and allowing them to upgrade at the service centers will show Big ICE customers another reason to choose Tesla. Making it profitable and simple will put pressure on BMW, MB, Audi’s
    who can only counter with subsidized leases and promises of a future BEV that doesn’t look like a toaster on steroids.

    P.S. Thanks for (P38XX), almost 3 years of pure joy.

    • “We are talking bread and butter. Not croissants, scones.”

      Except that Tesla philosophy doesn’t subscribe to those analogies. Or any.
      It doesn’t have to be something to help the bottom line. Each model is a quality event unto itself.

      • Ian. “It doesn’t have to be something to help the bottom line.” I respectfully disagree.
        Tesla has to start proving their business plan is viable and start producing profits. I support Tesla’s need to invest in infrastructure but without financial viability Tesla will not be able enlist support and raise capital it needs to further grow.

        • Tesla already makes a very healthty profit on each car they produce. They are close to having the highest GPM in the business. Only Porsche (IIRC) is higher.

          Tesla’s bottom line does not show a profit because they are spending capital and borrowed money to expand their operations.

          • “Tesla’s bottom line does not show a profit because they are spending capital and borrowed money to expand their operations.”

            That’s understandable for now but I hope that after the Gigafactory gets finished that Tesla slows down a little and starts to at least break even. The world needs that company to be around well into the future.

        • There are risks as well as benefits to having a CEO without the fear gene.

    • I hear you, but I’m sure Elon think he can make the Model 3 both affordable *and* cool. He’s going to want to make a car that’s so compelling that people would buy it even if it weren’t electric (like the S and the X). And God bless him for trying. He’s not going to make an electric Toyota Corolla. Because that wouldn’t be a Tesla.

  • What we have seen very little of is what Tesla will do to the Model 3 and Model X in order not to have the Model 3 cannibalize those sales. 200 miles for $35,000 vs 240 miles for $70,000… somethings gotta give.

    • Tesla doesn’t have to do anything on this, meaning, Model 3 sales will not affect Model S/X sales. We wanted a large car for our family trips, a smaller Model 3 wouldn’t work for us. Some people like larger cars, they are more stable on the highway, and fit 5 comfortably.

      • Certainly you are right if one has the money for a Model S then the price differential does not matter as much. I did ask a rep at the Tesla Gallery awhile back about if the Gigafactory reduced the price of batteries by 30% would we see a reduction in the price of the S? He said no, the S is priced right where they want it. BUT he did say that it is not out of the question that the range could be extended without an increase in price. Like Chris B. that’s what I think will happen.

        • I think that’s true, but take anything you hear from Tesla sales people with a grain of salt. They don’t get much info like that in advance… for good reason.

          • A big grain of salt because the last Rep I talked to about a month ago admitted that Tesla is very tight lipped and the folks in the trenches usually get only about a days notice before a general announcement. They get just enough time to get the announcement explained to them so they can answer questions about the announcement. That’s why I used the phrase “not out of the question”, a possibility, but nothing definite. Anyway, it won’t be long and we’ll know (or no) for sure.

    • Most manufacturers have a range of offerings, from entry level to high end. Do the low end models “cannibalize” the high end models? For $35K, the Model 3 will offer the general feel of a Model S, but it will be smaller, hence less room for people and gear. It may or may not include Super Charger access (I’m expecting that to be a paid option, or a pay-to-charge option on the Model 3). The Model 3 will most likely have lower acceleration speeds (but still peppy!) and may not have an autopilot option (though it will probably have the safety features developed for the S and X – collision avoidance and self-braking). Also, in 2-3 years, when the Model 3 is in full production, who says the base Model S will only have 240 miles of EPA range? With the gigafactory online, in late 2017/early 2018 the entry level Model S may be an 80kWh model with a lighter pack and closer to 300 miles of range?

      • At one point it time Detroit was selling its econoboxes at a loss so they the ability to sell more expensive gas guzzlers and stay within CAFE guidelines.

      • One thing I like about all electric is when battery technology gets better, you just insert a different better battery. Can’t do that with gas power; well not easily or cheaply or efficiently or anything else.

  • Or, the story could be complete bllsht.

    • Elon has already said pretty much the exact same thing.

  • “Very special design” – maybe they want to use some kind of golf ball bumps? It seems to work well in Mytbusters test.

  • If we are talking ‘very special’, and also low drag coefficient, I’m imagining a lot of glass – running at least as far back as the model X – perhaps further.

  • Another article says it will have a below .2 drag coefficient. Think of a 4 door VW XL1 (hopefully less ugly).

    • The source is certainly unclear, so it’s just a rumor for now.

  • There’s the boxfish inspired design that breaks below 0.2

    • Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

    • In all the designs that have a below .2 drag coefficient there was some cover to the back wheels. I hope to get a engineer to comment on if it is possible to get there without it. It seems that is at least one almost certain design choice.

      • Below 0.2? Probably not without wheel skirts.

      • eveee provided your response, but i doubt it will have wheel skirts. my guess is that it won’t have such a low drag coefficient, but we’ll see. the source in the article above is reportedly a Tesla employee who is a friend of the writer… not exactly an official statement.

        • Most recently I read that Tesla is shooting for 0.2 with the Mod3.

          Of course that was second (third, fifth?) hand info….

      • When you start focusing on drag; everything else suffers.

        • Going for low drag certainly made the Model S an ugly mutt, didn’t it Dan?
          If Tesla wasn’t working for low drag they could have turned out a beauty like the Mirai….

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