Hedging My Bets
with the Tesla Model 3

April 7, 2016

Mark D Larsen

As the media has now reported far and wide, one week ago today Tesla unveiled a prototype of its much anticipated EV priced for the masses, the Model 3. Thousands of potential customers had lined up all day at the automaker’s stores nationwide to put down deposits on the car, sight unseen. However, since there are no stores in my area within the driving range of my LEAF, I had to wait until online ordering opened up at 8:30 PM my time, one hour before we finally got to see the first prototype via webcast. I was actually surprised that I could put down a deposit without delay, as Tesla had warned that the website would take reservations in queues according to region. Luck of the mouseclick, I suppose.

Tesla certainly wasted no time in processing my payment: it immediately posted to my bank account online. Several days later, when I signed onto “My Tesla” at the automaker’s website, I saw that my reservation now had an assigned number, evidently coded to indicate my place in the queue to place an order someday —although I have yet to know the key to decipher such codes. This evening I also received a confirmation e-mail from Tesla.

There is a method to my madness in making a reservation. I figure that, since the deposit is refundable, I might as well hedge my bets for now. We’ll see what other EVs with 200-mile ranges are available by the time I could take delivery, probably not for another three years at the earliest. I have to admit that I like what I saw in the mockup prototypes revealed: the Model 3 definitely shows a Tesla heritage, and I find it more appealing than either the Chevy Bolt or Nissan’s IDS concept:

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Nonetheless, the prototype does have some quirks that reservation holders are hoping Tesla will improve in the production model. For example, to give rear passengers more headroom in a car smaller than the Model S, the glass roof extends all the way to the rear without a ceiling cross beam, thus necessitating a smaller trunk opening rather than a taller, more versatile hatchback.

Also, because consumers are so used to seeing a grille on the front of most vehicles, the Model 3’s “bald” nose seems oddly unfinished. Personally, for whatever it’s worth, not having a grille doesn’t bother me in the least. After all, the Alfa Romeo Spider that I used to own didn’t have a grille either: the nose simply blended into the hood and body, and I always thought it was one of the best looking convertibles ever made. For that matter, the EV1 also sported a similar front end, and I loved the look of that car. In short, the less noticeable that the car lacks a grille, the better —in my not-so-humble opinion:

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Reaching alfa

EV’er iconic look

We don’t know many of the Model 3’s specifications yet, but at the launch Elon Musk at least stated that the vehicle will...

It would be prudent to take the claim of 215 miles of range with a grain of salt. IF the Model 3 does achieve that range, it is only one of 5 different measures of efficiency that the EPA specifies in its ratings. Of those, the most crucial rating for roadtrips is the MPGe for highway driving.

The original Model S with a 60-kWh battery had an EPA “total range” of 208 miles, slightly less than what is postulated for the Model 3. This would make sense, since the latter will be smaller, probably more aerodynamic, possibly lighter, yet likely have the same size battery pack. If so, and we extract all 5 of the EPA efficiency ratings for that earlier version of the Model S, then adjust them proportionally for the Model 3, it is possible to speculate these results:

As you can see in the above table, despite a “total range” of 215 miles, in reality the Model 3 might only go 178 miles when driven at freeway speeds using climate control. Moreover, it would be foolish to run the risk of fully draining the battery when on a roadtrip, so reserving 10% of the charge as a safety buffer would give this range:

Hey,.. I would be delighted to own a vehicle capable of going 161 miles between SuperChargers! I can’t speak for others, but I typically need to stop after more than 2 hours of driving anyway, if for nothing else than to empty my own... “tank.”

It looks like it was a good idea to put down a deposit as soon as I could. This morning Tesla tweeted that, one week later, there are now over 325,000 reservations for the Model 3, greatly exceeding even the automaker’s expectations:

On its blog linked in the above tweet, Tesla asserts that this has been “The Week that Electric Vehicles Went Mainstream.” I certainly hope that’s true!