With around 373,000 advance reservations (so far), the Tesla Model 3 is officially the most anticipated car in history. And though many details were revealed at the Model 3 unveiling event this past March, many questions were left unanswered. Here are the top questions we’ve heard from readers, friends, and family about the Tesla Model 3, along with answers. Most of these are verified via communications with Tesla or tweets from the man himself (Elon Musk), but some are best guesses based on current information. As more information comes to light, we’ll be sure to keep this FAQ page updated.
How Much Will the Model 3 Really Cost?
Tesla says that the Model 3 will start at $35,000 before any state, local, or federal incentives. We expect the company to make good on this promise. However, Tesla tends to offer such compelling upgrades and options that it’s likely that the average selling price of the Model 3 will be significantly higher. Upgraded paint and interior, Autopilot, dual motors, extended battery for longer range between charges, air filters that can withstand a military-grade biochemical attack: all of this adds up. A fully loaded Model 3 equipped with all the options could top out at over $70,000 (unofficial speculation based on Model S and Model X options). Considering that Tesla’s Model X SUV ranges from $83,000 to $152,000 (a $69,000 range bottom to top), it’s not hard to imagine that you could load up a Model 3 for twice the base price. And a sweet Model 3 that would be. That said, we don’t expect to have any real pricing details on Model 3 options until much closer to production when the online design studio is launched for reservation holders.
What Options Will Be Available on the Model 3?
The Tesla Model S and X should be a good guide to the type of options that will be offered on the Model 3. The company recently normalized their options so that both the Model S and Model X have the exact same option list. We have already heard from Tesla and/or Elon himself that the Model 3 will have an extended-range battery pack, dual-motor drive, and “Ludicrous Speed” mode (which requires the “Performance” package) available as options. Autopilot, either in its current form or an advanced version, will be offered as an option and Supercharger access is likely to be a paid option as well. An upgraded audio system and interior and exterior lighting packages are likely. Also, the HEPA air filtration system with Bioweapon Defense mode is extremely likely to show up on the Model 3 as an option. As air quality worsens in many areas of the world (particularly China), advanced air filtration systems should prove to be more and more popular. It’s likely that Tesla will bundle options together as they do on the Model S and Model X.
Paint and interior choices are likely to be similar to the Model S and X, though a matte grey Model 3 at the reveal event proved very popular, so we may see some additional or different paint options on the Model 3. As for what brand new features we may see on the Model 3, the one that many speculate about is a HUD (heads-up display). A HUD displays essential information to the driver without requiring her or him to lower her/his eyes from the road. This is typically done by projecting this information onto the windshield outside the main field of view. Volvo, BMW, and other car makers are experimenting with this technology in automobiles, and so far it looks promising. With the Model 3 prototype’s sparse interior and lack of a conventional instrument cluster, a HUD would be a welcome addition, supplementing the information in the car’s center-mounted touchscreen panel. With Tesla’s dedication to safety, we wouldn’t be surprised if a HUD comes as a standard feature in the Model 3.
If you want to see what your Model 3 might look like with multiple different paint and wheel options, check out this fan-built and completely unofficial Model 3 configurator. We wonder if the interior choice means that the Model 3 will make the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs.
How Many Pre-Orders Are There for the Model 3?
On May 15, Tesla revealed that there are currently 373,000 paid reservations for the Model 3. This number is a net total after about 8,000 buyer cancellations and 4,200 orders that Tesla cancelled due to suspected speculation (there is currently a 2 car per person pre-order limit). Musk has stated that a full 93% of Model 3 pre-orders are from new buyers who do not currently own a Tesla. Also, only about 5% of total orders are for the maximum of two cars, suggesting that most are ordering these cars for themselves or a family member, not for potential resale. It’s important to keep in mind that this reservation count comes with no advertising of the car and very little direct promotion. As the car gets closer to production, and more of its features come to light, we expect the reservation count to continue to grow.
When Will I Get My Model 3?
As mentioned, Tesla currently has around 373,000 pre-orders for the Model 3. In all of 2015, Tesla manufactured about 50,000 cars. Do the math. Oh, don’t look so sad! It probably won’t take Tesla 8 years to fulfill all those Model 3 orders. Tesla is growing its production line out quickly. Just 3½ years ago (2012), Tesla manufactured and sold a grand total of 3,100 cars in the entire year. So, to be making 15 times as many cars per year in just 3 years is a good start. On the most recent earnings call, Mr. Musk set an aggressive goal to reach a manufacturing run rate of 500,000 cars a year by 2018. And last week, the company announced a major stock offering to fund that lofty goal. The offering could bring up to $1.7 billion in cash into company coffers. This cash will help fund the property leases, equipment purchases, raw materials, and human capital required to beef up Tesla’s production capabilities in short order.
Musk has stated that the first Model 3s will roll off the line in 2017. He even went out on a limb to say that the company could make as many as 100,000–200,000 Model 3s in 2017, but I believe this goal is a bit too aggressive considering the company’s past history of model roll-outs. Let’s be a bit more realistic and say that the company can deliver 10,000 Model 3s in 2017 and really ramp up production in early to mid 2018. If it can ramp up production quickly, the company could deliver as many as 250,000 Model 3s in 2018. And it could be poised to deliver 350,000 or more Model 3s in 2019. There are too many unknowns at this point to say whether these goals are attainable, but they are in keeping with the company’s stated plans. But exactly when you get your car depends on more than just Tesla’s production capacity.
Tesla has already stated that employees of both Tesla and SpaceX will get order priority on the Model 3. Also, the company is giving priority to current Tesla owners (of a Model X, Model S, or Roadster) before the general public. There are a couple of reasons that this makes sense. First, Tesla and SpaceX employees have put in significant effort in getting the company to where it is today (SpaceX is another Elon Musk venture, which shares many technological developments with its sister company Tesla). Similarly, without buyers of the Roadster, Model S, and Model X, Tesla would not exist. So, the first reason for the order priority is as a reward for those who have helped the company succeed. The other reason is that new cars (particularly new Teslas) tend to have a few glitches early on in their production cycles. With over-the-air software updates, many of these issues can be corrected with a simple software update right in the owner’s garage. But some of the early issues are likely to be hardware-related. And who do you think would be more forgiving of these early glitches? Employees and early supporters of the company? Or the general public? By offering order priority to these “friendly” buyers, the company helps to minimize any potential bad press about the early production samples.
Beyond that, Musk and Tesla have said that the company will fulfill highly optioned orders first, and will expedite those orders based on geography. The West Coast of the US gets first dibs. The reason to fulfill highly optioned orders first is that this maximizes revenue (and profit) while they are constrained by production, which can help the company to stay afloat financially and can also help to speed up production, sales, service, and supercharging growth. And the reason to fulfill West Coast orders first is that these are closest to the factory and headquarters, which allows the company to deliver these cars quicker, and to correct any early problems with the cars in a more timely fashion.
So the answer to “When Will I Get My Model 3?” depends on a few factors: do you work for Tesla Motors or SpaceX? Are you already a Tesla customer? Are you willing to pony up for a top-of-the-line or highly optioned model? Where do you live? Tesla employees and owners who live near Fremont, CA, and who order a fully loaded performance model may get their cars in 2017 or early 2018. Musk himself even said that Tesla would try to fulfill orders from those waiting in lines at stores on March 31 by the end of 2017. But sometimes Mr. Musk is a bit too optimistic when it comes to deliveries. If you live far from California, don’t work for Tesla, don’t own a Tesla already, and you’re hoping to bring home a less-than-fully-featured Model 3 for closer to the $35,000 base price, you may be waiting until late 2018 or 2019 for yours. It all depends on exactly when Tesla manages to ramp up production of the Model 3 and what the actual configuration mix looks like.
The best way to ensure that you get your Model 3 early (other than moving to California and taking a job with Tesla or SpaceX) is to put down a deposit now (if you haven’t already) and confirm your order as soon as you are invited to do so. Your place in the delivery queue is only locked in when you confirm your order (it is not based on when you place your deposit), so you can actually jump the queue a bit if you confirm your order as soon as you get invited to do so and/or you order a highly optioned Model 3.
Will I Still Be Eligible for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit?
US buyers of EVs (electric vehicles) qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. This incentive is currently limited to a certain number of cars for each manufacturer. As soon as a particular carmaker delivers 200,000 EVs in the United States, the clock starts ticking on the phase-out period for the tax credit. All EVs sold by that company for the next 3–6 months qualify for 100% of the credit (which means the car must be delivered in that time period). Then the credit drops to $3,750 (50%) for 6 months and to $1,750 (25%) for the following 6 months. Depending on how quickly Tesla ramps up production of the Model 3, it could hit that 200,000 milestone as early as Q4 2017 or Q1 2018. If it hits the milestone on January 1, 2018, then all Teslas delivered in the first half of 2018 would be eligible for the full credit. For the second half of 2018, buyers would be eligible for a 50% credit ($3,750), and for the first half of 2019, buyers would get the 25% credit. For more details on how the tax credit works, see our article, “Tesla Model 3, The Federal EV Tax Credit, & You (FAQ).”
Will the Tesla Model 3 Have Dual-Motor All-Wheel Drive?
Just as on the Model S, the base Model 3 will have rear-wheel drive with one electric motor driving the rear wheels. But as with the S, there will be a dual-motor option on the Model 3. This improves performance, handling, and efficiency. The upgrade cost for switching to dual motors on the Model S is $5,000. The upcharge for dual motors on the Model 3 is likely to be somewhat lower, as the motors themselves are likely to be smaller than those in the Model S and Model X. The Model 3 prototypes shown at the launch event in March were dual-motor-drive cars.
How Fast Will the Model 3 Be? Will It Leave My Friend’s BMW in the Dust?
OK, technically, that’s two questions. So far, all we know for sure is that the base Model 3 will go from 0 to 60 MPH in “under 6 seconds.” This is pretty quick for a compact sports sedan at this price point. For about the same price, a base model BMW 3 series (2016 model year 320i) does 0-60 in about 7.2 seconds, though you can shave that down to under 5 seconds and stay in the BMW 3 series if you’re willing to spend twice as much. When you add a larger battery and dual motors to a Tesla Model 3, the acceleration numbers should get significantly better. Reports from the Model 3 unveiling event suggest that those dual-motor prototype Model 3s reached 60 MPH in under 5 seconds. But we’re expecting even better performance than that on the highest-performance version of the Model 3 (perhaps under 4 seconds?). So, yeah, your BMW-owning friend may have acceleration envy of your Model 3.
As for “fast,” we don’t know yet what the Model 3’s top speed will be. On a Model S, that varies from 140 MPH for the base 70 kWh model to 155 MPH for the top-of-the-line P90D. We expect that the top speed of the Model 3 will be at least 130 MPH and may go as high as 150 or even 155 on the performance version with the largest battery pack. The BMW 3 series tops out at about 145–155 MPH depending on the model.
Will the Model 3 Have “Ludicrous Speed?”
Yes. From the beginning, one of Tesla’s goals has been to make EVs so good that there would be no compromises compared to gas cars. They proved this was possible with the Roadster, and even more so with the Model S. The Model S can seat up to 7 people in comfort (as long as two are fairly small), and yet it makes it from 0 to 60 MPH in a blindingly fast 2.8 seconds when equipped with the performance package and Ludicrous speed. This acceleration beats all but the most expensive (and completely impractical) supercars. This performance is due to the instant torque available from a high-capacity/high-current battery simultaneously driving two independent electric motors. The Model 3 isn’t just an “affordable EV.” It’s also a Tesla. And as a Tesla, it will continue the tradition of high performance, quick acceleration, and exceptional handling. Musk has confirmed via Twitter that the Model 3 will have Ludicrous speed as an option, but we still don’t know just how quick it will be. If the battery pack is powerful enough, the car is light enough, and the drag coefficient low enough (they’re aiming for an incredibly low 0.21 cd), it’s possible that a souped up Model 3 might even be capable of giving its big brothers (the Model S and Model X) a run for their money.
Will I Get Access to Superchargers for Long-Distance Travel?
Yes, but maybe not for free in the base model. One of the things that currently sets Tesla apart from the competition is the high-speed charging network that the company is building out all over the world. With the Supercharger network, owners of Tesla’s Model S and Model X can travel long distance for free for life. The Supercharger stations are built along popular routes to allow travel over long distances without long delays due to charging. While it may take 8 hours or more to fully charge a Tesla at home, you can get around 50% of your range back at a Tesla Supercharger in 20–30 minutes. A full top-up takes around 60 minutes. And while this is longer than it takes to fill up a tank of gas, it’s quick enough that many folks don’t mind taking some time to eat a meal or stretch out a bit while their car gets juiced up for free. It’s also approximately twice as fast as other electric cars on the market can charge.
At the Model 3 reveal, Musk stated that the Model 3 would be Supercharger-capable. In other words, it will have the necessary high-speed DC charging capability on board. But this does not mean that the Model 3 will have free Supercharging for life. Even the entry-level Model S in 2012 to 2014 (the 60 kWh battery version) required a $2,000 to $2,500 up-charge to gain access to the Superchargers. That feature was rolled into the 70 kWh model when it became available. But the Model S sells for a minimum of $71,500, so Tesla can allocate a portion of that toward building out the charging network and the residual costs to keep them operational. It’s more difficult to absorb that cost into a $35,000 car. We believe Supercharger access will be an extra cost option on the Model 3. This allows those who don’t need long-distance-travel capability to save a bit of money while those who will use their Tesla for long-distance travel can invest a bit more, in order to fund expansion and maintenance of the Supercharger network. We also believe it’s likely that Tesla will roll Supercharger access into the higher-capacity battery option on the Model 3, just as they did with the Model S. In other words, if you spend an extra $5,000 to $10,000 to get a larger battery with much greater range, you probably won’t have to pay extra to get Supercharger access.
Will the Model 3 Drive Itself with Autopilot?
Tesla’s Autopilot capabilities are part of what makes its cars so compelling. With a couple of taps on the stalk of a Model S or Model X, you can take your foot off the accelerator and your hands off the wheel and the car will virtually drive itself (on the highway at least). By the way, don’t zone out completely as the car may tell you to resume control at any point if things get really hairy. Model S and Model X also have a nifty “Summon” feature that allows you to call your car to you, or tell it to park itself in your garage. When the Model 3 actually comes to market, 18 months to two years from now, it’s likely that Tesla’s self-driving features will be even more advanced. At the reveal, Musk said that the Autopilot safety features (collision avoidance, automatic braking, etc.) will come standard. This means the autopilot hardware (sensors and cameras) will be built into every Model 3. But don’t expect a full-fledged Autopilot or autonomous-driving capabilities in the $35,000 base model. Adding Autopilot to a Model S or Model X costs $2,500 at order time or $3,000 after purchase. We expect similar pricing for Autopilot on the Model 3.
What’s the Range? How Far Can I Go Between Charges?
Tesla has promised at least 215 miles (EPA rating) of range with a full charge. This is for the base model, which is likely to have a battery that’s around 55 kWh (a Tesla rep has said that the Model 3 base battery will be smaller than 60 kWh). For those who want more range, Tesla will offer the option for a higher-capacity battery. An additional benefit of the larger battery is that it can charge quicker at Superchargers, particularly when the battery is at a relatively low SOC (state of charge). With a larger battery, you won’t have to stop as often, nor for as long as you would with a smaller battery.
Depending on the car’s size, weight, and aerodynamics, as well as the size of the larger battery pack, it’s possible that an upgraded Model 3 may approach or even exceed 300 miles of range. Of course, before the first Model 3 is delivered, it’s likely that the Model S will already boast over 300 miles of range with a 100 kWh battery pack option. But with the lighter weight and more efficient design, the Model 3 should be able to approach 300 miles of range with a 75 kWh or 80 kWh battery.
Will I Be Able to Seat More Than 5 People in My Model 3?
Due to the smaller size of the Model 3, it won’t be possible to seat more than 5 people (unless they like riding on the roof or in the frunk). Also, unlike the Model S, the Model 3 is a sedan with a trunk, not a hatchback (or liftback). If you want a Tesla with room for 6 or 7 people, the Model S and Model X are still your only choices. A compact SUV based on the Model 3 platform (Model Y?) is expected after the Model 3 sedan launches. Like the Model X, the Model Y may have falcon-wing doors and will undoubtedly have a rear hatch, but it is also unlikely to seat more than 5 passengers due to size constraints.
How Do I Reserve a Model 3?
Go to Tesla’s website to reserve your Model 3. Reservations require a refundable $1,000 deposit. You can cancel your order and get a full refund any time before you actually confirm your configuration. As Tesla nears production of the Model 3, reservation holders will be invited to confirm their orders based on the date and time the reservation was placed. You can also reserve a Model 3 at any Tesla store. And after that? Well, as Tom Petty says, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part!”