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Tesla Model 3: the best low cost electric car

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Motors unveiled the Tesla Model ≡ last month. I've been meaning to write about it for a while. Here's my thoughts:

First of all, watch the unveiling by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Elon Musk famously never rehearses his presentations as he is too busy. He makes them up on the spot. This one seems a bit more rehearsed than "never". Maybe he practiced it once. He has a lovingly awkward super-genius style of presenting. I think it's great. 

Telsa Model 3

I thoroughly recommend reading the Elon Musk biography by Ashlee Vance. It gives a great understanding about how Mr Musk things and why is he so driven to do the amazing things he and his companies do.

So, what's so special about this car? 

It's relatively fast (0-100km/h in under 6 seconds), it has relatively long range (350km on one charge) and it's going to be relative cheap (USD $35,000 for the base model). It's also been pre-ordered by a bunch of people, so good luck getting on in the first few years of production.

The reason it's so (relatively) cheap it that Tesla has built the Gigafactory, the biggest battery factory in the world. The economies of scale of that factory mean Tesla can product lithium-ion batteries cheaper and better than anyone else in the world. The Gigafactory will produce more batteries than the entire rest of the world's battery production combined.

The design of the car has people divided. I think it looks great. Other people don't like the unfamiliar front of the car, a design without an air-intake grill. Electric cars don't have a hot-running combustion engine to cool, so the air-intake is unnecessary.

The car is shaped for maximum aerodynamics with a drag coefficient of 0.21. The lower the drag coefficient, the less wind resistance a car experiences as it drives at high speed. Less wind resistance equals better power efficiency, as less power is required to pushing the car through the air.

Volkswagen XL1 0.19
Tesla Model 3 0.21
Tesla Model S 0.24
Mercedes C-Class 0.24
Toyota Prius 0.26

The XL1 might be slippery, but, oh boy, is that thing ugly. The Model 3 looks wonderful by comparison. Note that Tesla will continue to optimise the aerodynamics of the Model 3, so the drag coefficient might improve more before release.

See how on the XL1 the rear wheels are covered over? That greatly contributes to an improved drag coefficient because the spinning wheels cause a lot of turbulence, adding drag and slowing the car down, but those wheel covers make the car look really weird. Tesla did something really clever to get the best of both worlds. They designed a special kind of turbine hub cap that redirects the passing air underneath the car, reducing the wheels' drag.

Tesla hub cap

I'm a bit disappointed that the Model 3 is a sedan and not a hatchback (hidden details video has some explanation about why). Watch this test drive of the Model 3. At the end of the video they open the trunk/boot of the car. While it doesn't have the extra storage space behind the rear head-rests that a hatchback would have, it does have an incredibly deep trunk and a frunk for additional storage. A frunk is a "front trunk". Because there is no need for a big combustion engine under the hood of the car, there is storage extra space there instead. The battery is along the base of the car. 

2013 11 06 image 4

Finally, here is an excellent overview of the Model 3 and the Gigafactory with lots of great pictures of the new car.  

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