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Coming soon: Affordable 2017 Tesla Model 3 sedan and crossover

A $35,000 starting price could jumpstart the electric-car movement

Last updated: June 17, 2015 11:00 PM
Tesla Model S

For those people who dream of owning a Tesla but can’t stretch to the price premium of the Model S, the California-based automaker is developing a new, cheaper electric car called the Model 3. And following a speech by Tesla co-founder and Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel at a U.S. Energy Information Agency conference in Washington this week, we know a lot more about the Model 3 than we did before. (See our complete Tesla Model S road test.)

For starters, Tesla says the Model 3 will start at $35,000—about half the price of the larger Model S. The upcoming car will be offered in multiple configurations, presumably with different power and range, like the Model S line. Plus, there will reportedly be a crossover SUV variation.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the Model 3 will be about 80 percent of the size of a Model S, which would make the car about the size of a BMW 3 Series.

Musk has said the base Model 3 will have a range of 200 miles, or longer for higher-level models.  

The Model 3 is expected to have a battery pack of about 68 to 70 kWh, using new cells produced at Tesla’s battery Gigafactory, being constructed outside of Reno, Nevada. A battery pack with the power used in the current base Model S applied to a smaller car could bring even greater range, making 300 miles look reasonable on paper. Of course, higher-performance Model 3 versions may have less range.

Based on a June 2015 investor earnings call, Tesla is backing away from using battery-swap technology. So the Model 3 will likely have access to Tesla’s Superchargers but not have the capability to hot-swap batteries.

Musk has also said the Model 3 will be “less adventurous” than the Model S or the upcoming Model X SUV. That likely means it won’t have dramatic styling elements, like the "falcon wing" doors that have been difficult to develop or the troublesome power-retracting door handles. It may also be made of steel, rather than aluminum to aid cost.

Musk says he plans to unveil the car next winter. Based on Tesla statements, we expect the Model 3 to be on sale in 2017.

See our guide to Tesla, complete with news, reviews, and videos.

—Eric Evarts

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