Elon Musk has revealed the Tesla Model 3 to the public for the first time. Unveiled at the company's design studio in Hawthorne, California in front of a crowd of whooping and cheering customers and journalists, the Model 3 is the most affordable Tesla yet and hopes to bring electric cars to the mass market.
The event came hours after hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Tesla fans queued up through the night to pre-order the car for $1,000 (£1,000 in the UK), despite having not seen the car at that point. The scenes resembled Apple fans queueing up for the first iPhone back in 2007.
There will be several different versions of the Model 3. The cheapest will accelerate from 0-60mph in under six seconds and has an all-electric range of 215 miles. Musk said there will be some "much faster" versions available. Musk said: "Why are we making the Model 3? Because we want to accelerate the transition to a future of sustainable transport."
Visually, the Model 3 takes cues from the larger Model X, in that its windscreen extends up beyond the roof line, giving more natural light than any other car in its class.
The Model 3 is claimed to have "comfortable" seating for five adults, and can even fit a 7ft surfboard inside, said Musk. All Model 3s will also come with Autopilot hardware, although it is thought that some versions will require an extra payment to switch the system on. Autopilot is capable of driving the car itself on motorways, taking control of the steering, accelerator and brakes.
With regard to Tesla's network of 'Supercharger' car charging stations, Musk said the current offering of 3,500 chargers worldwide will double to over 7,000 by the end of 2017.
Deliveries of the Model 3 will start at the end of 2017. "I really feel confident that it will be next year," Musk said with a laugh, recognising how the Model S and X were both delayed. As for price, the Model 3 will start at $35,000 in the US, which is expected to translate to around £30,000 in the UK once VAT is added. However, this price could well be subject to a £5,000 discount from the government, as applied to all new electric car purchases.
The car has a newly designed interior with a smaller central touch screen compared to the more expensive Model S and Model X. At 15in, the screen is two inches smaller than that used by the S and X, and it is landscape rather than portrait. No other screens or dials are present on the car's dashboard, although this is unlikely to be the car's final design.
As well as a simpler interior, cost savings have been made in the overall construction of the car. During the first passenger ride given to journalists - streamed online by Tesla - a representative said the car was made mostly from steel, with some aluminium included to help save weight. As with other Tesla's, the Model 3's heavy battery pack is located in the floor, helping to lower the vehicle's centre of gravity to below other cars in its class.
Like the Model S and X, the Model 3 will be offered in two- and four-wheel-drive versions, and as with its bigger siblings the new car will have storage areas in the front and back, thanks to the electric motors being much smaller than a conventional petrol or diesel engine.
More than 115,000 Model 3 cars were pre-ordered ahead of its reveal. Every one of these new owners had no idea exactly what the car would look like, how it would perform, or what it would cost. For context, it took Tesla 3.5 years to sell that many of its Model S. The pre-orders will bring a useful $115m of cash to the company's pockets. Assuming all pre-orders convert into sales, Tesla will get a $4bn cash injection over the coming 18 months.