Tesla Model 3. It’s the car that may well change the way we drive.
Growing up in the 90s, as games consoles were beginning to eat up the precious time of teenagers across the country, you were either a fan of Sega, or Nintendo. However, regardless of your affinity, here in the UK you’d have to play a waiting game for new releases to come round, as first the Japanese market, then the US market would get first dibs of all the great stuff, until eventually the games would arrive in lagard Europe. Globalisation and the development of digital delivery methods has pretty much put paid to this sense of anticipation in not only the games market, but most areas of commerce.
The car market, however, is still prone to these quirks. A combination of a globalised supply chain, plus most other country’s dogged insistence on driving on the right side of the road, means that the release schedule for automobiles is pretty idiosyncratic. Especially if the production capability is focused outside of Europe.
This is especially magnified in the electric vehicles space, where the growing demand for clean, efficient vehicles far outstrips supply.
None more so than the Tesla Model 3; quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated car of the 21st century. It’s been wowing car enthusiasts in the US for well over a year, where it sold over 130k units in 2018, making it the 11th biggest selling car there last year. And now, finally Model 3 is here. The first left hand drive ones arrived on our shores in June, and many are now in the hands of new, happy Tesla owners in the UK.
For Tesla, Model 3 represents an important milestone in its masterplan to rapidly accelerate the world's transition to sustainable transport, announced in 2006. It read something like this:
BUILD A SPORTS CAR THAT COSTS A LOT,
USE THAT MONEY TO BUILD A HIGH END SEDAN
USE THAT MONEY TO BUILD A HIGH VOLUME, LOWER PRICE CAR
The expensive sports car came along in 2008, in the form of the Roadster. The high end Sedan was 2012’s Model S.
Tesla Model 3 is that high volume, lower priced car: the base model (“Standard Plus” Model) is coming in around the £40k mark: similar to Audi, BMW and Mercedes’ more sporty lines.
Elon Musk, Tesla’s sometimes controversial, always entertaining figurehead, set the goal of 500,000 cars a year in 2020. With reports that the factory is now at 1000 cars a day, they are really close to hitting that target as well. It looks like Tesla are beginning to crack the mass production model.
Accelerating the world's transition to sustainable transport has been at the heart of everything Tesla has done since day one. Model 3 is the culmination of all the things they have achieved so far. It tops the charts in class for range, safety, performance and usability. Range (how far the car will get without charging) is the main thing people consider when they first look at buying an electric vehicle. The premium Performance Model 3 boasts 300 plus miles of range and the Standard is more around 230 on a single charge, but if you charge your car every night, so you always leave with a full “tank”. If you do want to venture further afield, you’d have the extensive Tesla Supercharger Network to back you up (next time you’re in a motorway service station, check out how many Tesla Superchargers you see). It’s also Europe-wide and capable charge at rates of well over 200 miles an hour.
All of this would be immaterial if it didn’t drive well, or do the basics well. Octopus Electric Vehicles had experts driving the car in 2018 on the coast in Oregon, and they couldn’t believe what Tesla had achieved. It is really easy to use; you open and shut the car with your phone (a key is available as an optional extra. Just that statement shows how revolutionary the Tesla approach is). The car senses how far away you are and unlocks as you approach. The door handles are more akin to what you would find on a Lamborghini, they sit flush to the body, creating an amazingly smooth finish (for aerodynamic efficiency, and maybe just a tiny bit because if looks awesome). Simply press the end in with your thumb and the handle then pops out into your hand. On the inside, it’s almost spartan; a steering wheel, a huge 15” touchscreen that controls everything, and a lot of clean lines more akin to a Mayfair art gallery.
The Teslas you’re most likely to see on the road at the moment are the Model S and the Model X, and they suffer somewhat from their weight, being 2.1 and 2.4 tonnes respectively, and you can feel this when you drive them. They have unbelievable road holding but the trade-off is that the front end can suffer from a lack of dynamic turn in. You would be forgiven for thinking that Model 3 would drive just like Model S or X but smaller. No, Tesla have worked really hard to make this feel and drive like a small European car; amazing grip but playful, and super easy to get into a corner. So impressive for a car verging of 1.9 tonnes.
Tesla engineers’ attention to detail in developing the Model 3 is a thing of renown. They worked with motor trend journalist and racing driver Randy Pobst, two-time winner of the 24 hour of Daytona, to craft new algorithms to allow the Model 3 Performance to compete on track days with many of its competitors, as well as cars above its class, on lap times with some of the more incredible cars taking those honours. Not that it needs to, it can out-accelerate the 1999 McLaren F1 (0-60 = 3.2sec), which if sold today would go for around £1.2 million, a car Elon Musk owned, loved and totalled in after driving too fast over a hill. A car Musk would hold as a benchmark for all Teslas in terms of acceleration.
So, it’s quite a remarkable drive. And the tech at the heart of it makes it an absolute joy, as well as incredibly safe. The Lane Departure Avoidance feature for instance means that, should you start to veer out of your lane, the car is intelligent enough to correct this and hold its lane. This is clearly a prelude to a more full-on autonomous driving feature, something that no doubt could be unlocked if and when infrastructure technology and legislation allows.
This is one of the most significant features of a Tesla; the implementation of Over The Air upgrades, similar to those you’d receive on your smartphone. These mean that improvements, enhancements and, sometimes quite frankly ridiculous but fun ‘Easter Eggs’ are rolled out to Teslas across the country overnight as they’re parked up on a driveway, contentedly charging.
Easter Eggs are the little gifts the Tesla software engineers leave to be unlocked by drivers, mostly to bring a little joy to their day. Want to change the central display to a roaring log fire? Just unlock that particular feature. Want to change the display to a sketchbook to while away some time while you’re parked up? No problem. Want to change the view of your vehicle on screen to santa’s sleigh, James Bond’s submarine car or have it drive on a psychedelic road? Easter eggs have made all of these things happen. This is what happens when the tech world and the motoring industry collide.
Tesla Model 3 is the true start of the age of sustainable transport for the masses. Model 3 allows you to swap your family car today and never have to compromise.
It does all the things you’d expect from a supercar, without burning the tiniest bit of fuel. And you can get one by speaking to Octopus Electric Vehicles.
This article originally appeared in My Green Pod