|Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiling his $35,000 Model 3 in California on Thursday night.|
Editor's note: On April 7, Tesla announced more than 325,000 reservations for the Model 3 had been received in the week after the car was unveiled.
By VICTOR E. SASSON
At the unveiling of the Model 3, the first words out of Tesla CEO Elon Musk's mouth were to alert the media to the dire state of the environment.
But his strong environmental message -- that this affordable all-electric car will "accelerate sustainable transport" -- was virtually ignored by reporters and financial analysts.
Noting record high carbon-dioxide levels, Musk said 53,000 deaths a year are caused by auto emissions.
No other single vehicle in the history of the automobile has generated this kind of excitement.
This is a watershed moment, and if Tesla achieves volume sales of the Model 3, it could mark the beginning of the end for the antiquated internal combustion engine.
Model 3 won't just be a smaller, three-quarter version of Model S.
Notable differences from Model S include:
- The roof of the Model 3 will be glass to give the driver and four passengers a feeling of openness.
- The central touchscreen will be mounted horizontally, and include the speedometer and other instruments.
And Model 3 owners also will be able to use Tesla's nationwide network of Superchargers for free as long as they own their cars, just like Model S owners.
Free charging for life is an exclusive Tesla feature no other automaker has matched.
Chevrolet hasn't said whether it will build a network of fast chargers for owners of the all-electric Bolt, due out late this year.
Musk also said Model 3 will be the safest car in its class, with 5-star ratings in every category.
Model 3 will have a range of 215 miles on a full charge, compared to the 208-mile range of the Model S 60 I own, so the battery in the new car likely will be about 65 kilowatt-hours.
The Model 3, like the Model S 60, does 0-60 in under 6 second.
The current base Model S is the 70D with dual motors, a 70 kilowatt-hour battery and a range of 250 miles at 65 mph.
Musk said on Thursday night Tesla's battery factory in Nevada is "operational," and batteries from there will cost 30% less than those in Model S, allowing him to sell Model 3 for $35,000.
And he noted the Tesla Factory in Fremont, Calif. -- a former GM-Toyota joint venture -- has the capacity to build 500,000 cars a year.
The plant was building an average of 6,000 cars a week when it closed in May 2010.
Tesla Motors reopened the factory in October 2010.