Tesla’s Model 3 was promised from the beginning to be an advanced electric sedan at an affordable $35,000 entry price. That, as anyone who has followed Tesla with any kind of regularity, has been an elusive goal as only higher-end and much more expensive versions of the Model 3 have been offered. And now…the $35,000 Model 3 is finally a reality.
Model 3 is a stylish and high-tech sedan offering a signature Tesla look and lots of advanced technology. Tesla’s third all-electric vehicle, the Model 3 follows in the footsteps of the well-regarded Model S sedan and Model X crossover SUV. Like these vehicles, the Model 3 is fast and fun to drive. Importantly, it does what Teslas are known to do – offer all-electric driving from about 220 miles up to 310 miles before requiring a recharge, which does a lot to ease range anxiety.
Just as Tesla’s approach to being an automaker is different, so too are its cars. Compared to the Model X, which the company packed in as many ‘firsts’ as possible – a crossover with gullwing-like ‘falcon’ doors and the industry’s largest windshield – the Model 3 is more aligned with the needs of mass production. In fact, Tesla describes the Model 3 as ‘smaller and simpler’ than its predecessors to make it more affordable than the Model S.
The $35,000 entry price tag is important since the Model 3 has been widely-promoted as a $35,000 ‘everyman’s electric vehicle’ affordable to the masses, even as the cheapest model available was initially $49,000, then $46,000, and ultimately $43,000 before Tesla finally made the leap to its recently-announced $35,000, slightly decontented base model. At that price it’s doubtful that Tesla will make money, and in fact it wasn’t long ago when Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company would lose money on the Model 3 at that price point. An array of industry experts agree with that assessment. But that’s another story.
If not an exercise in simplicity, then perhaps the Model 3 is a statement that ‘less-is-more,’ even as it delivers desired levels of performance, range, technology, and safety. For example, rather than more costly aluminum construction like the Model S and Model X, the Model 3 uses both aluminum and less-costly steel. Its interior is also a model of simplicity devoid of instrumentation and external controls, knobs, or switches, with everything – including the speedometer – incorporated into its 15-inch center-mounted touchscreen display.
Buyers have a choice of battery packs and motors that deliver varying levels of performance and range. The lowest motor output currently available is estimated to offer 220 horsepower and rear-wheel drive, with a range of 220 miles. The dual motor model features 450 horsepower with all-wheel drive and a range of 310 miles.
Like all Tesla models, the Model 3 includes the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving, although this capability is dependent upon extensive software validation and local regulatory approval. Model 3 offers forward radar, eight cameras, and 12 ultrasonic sensors that enable an array of safety and driver-assist functions including automatic emergency braking, collision avoidance, and side collision warning. Over-the-air software updates are part of the package and Tesla’s AutoPilot semi-autonomous driving system is an available option.
Tesla now offers two levels of Connectivity: Standard that is free and Premium that comes at a modest annual cost. Standard Connectivity offers basic maps and navigation, music and media over Bluetooth, and software updates over Wi-Fi. Both receive maps and navigation functionality, traffic-based routing, trip planner, and Supercharger stall availability. All cars with Standard Connectivity will simply need to connect to a Wi-Fi network to receive software updates. Premium Connectivity adds satellite-view maps with live traffic visualization, in-car streaming music and media, and over-the-air software updates via Wi-Fi and cellular.
In an interesting twist to the $35,000 Model 3 saga, Tesla shuttered some of its stores and galleries in an effort to save money in tandem with the lower-cost Model 3 availability, with the intention of potentially closing all of them and exclusively selling online. The company then changed its mind and kept most of its Tesla stores and galleries open. Again, another story…so stay tuned.
Green Car Journal has made a strategic expansion of its annual Green Car of the Year® program at the LA Auto Show’s AutoMobility LA this year, now including complementary awards for 2019 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ and 2019 Green SUV of the Year™. The magazine has also just announced finalists for the three high-profile awards.
Finalists for 2019 Green Car of the Year® include the Honda Insight, Lexus ES 300h, Nissan Altima, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, and Volkswagen Jetta. Competing for 2019 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ are finalists Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-PACE, Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, Range Rover P400e, and Tesla Model 3. The field of 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ finalists includes the Cadillac XT4, Hyundai Kona, Lexus UX, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and the Volvo XC40.
Finalists for the 2019 Green Car of the Year® illustrate that 'green' comes in many forms, with efficient internal combustion and hybrid vehicles taking center stage. Gasoline models continue to achieve notable levels of efficiency and lower carbon emissions. At the same time, it's evident how important electrification has become in today's models, with two 2019 Green SUV of the Year™ finalists and all five finalists for the 2019 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ featuring battery electric or plug-in hybrid power. Green Car Journal has been recognizing leadership in the automotive field through its Green Car Awards program over the past 14 years.
2019 GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
The new-generation Nissan Altima has a more aggressive stance, advanced ProPILOT Assist, and greater efficiency with its turbocharged, variable compression four-cylinder engine.
TOYOTA AVALON HYBRID
Toyota's new Avalon Hybrid is longer, lower, and more stylish, with high mpg and spirited driving delivered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and all-new Toyota Hybrid System II powertrain.
Since its inception in 2006, the Green Car of the Year® has been selected by Green Car Journal editors and invited jurors from highly-respected efficiency and environmental organizations. This year's invited Green Car of the Year® jurors include celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno; Jean-Michel Cousteau, President of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, President and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and Board Member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, President Emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation and Senior Research Fellow at the Energy Institute, University of Texas at Austin; Mindy Lubber, President of CERES; and Jason Hartke, President of the Alliance to Save Energy.
2019 LUXURY GREEN CAR OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
The new Audi e-tron crossover SUV is this automaker's first all-electric production model, combining a handsome design, all-wheel drive performance, and a range of well over 200 miles.
PORSCHE CAYENNE E-HYBRID
RANGE ROVER P400e
TESLA MODEL 3
Tesla's latest offering, the Model 3, is a stylish and high-tech sedan offering a signature Tesla look, lots of advanced technology, and an EPA estimated electric range of 210 to 310 miles.
2019 GREEN SUV OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV
Chevrolet’s milestone Bolt EV will be coming to showrooms in late 2016 as a 2017 model, representing the first truly affordable battery electric vehicle with a sought-after 200 mile driving range. This is a big win for Chevrolet since the Bolt beats the 200 mile Tesla Model 3 to market, likely by a long shot. Unlike the Chevy Spark EV, an adaptation of a gasoline-powered model that’s been available in select markets since 2013, the Bolt EV was designed from the ground-up as an electric vehicle. Thus, there are no compromises along the way.
The heart of the Bolt EV is a nickel-rich lithium-ion battery pack developed with LG Electronics. The 200 mile range provided by this pack is about twice that of competitive EVs now on the market. New battery chemistry delivers desired levels of power, in this case 160 kW, and energy of 60 kWh. The chemistry also provides improved thermal performance that requires a smaller active thermal conditioning system to keep the battery operating at its optimum temperature, delivering longer battery life and maintaining peak performance under varying climates and driver demands.
The battery pack consists of 288 lithium-ion cells in a configuration that spans the entire floor to maximize interior space. The five-door Bolt EV seats five passengers and has 16.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. Thin-frame seats enhance rear-seat roominess.
A standard 7.2 kilowatt onboard charger allows overnight charging from a 240 volt wall charger. A typical commute of 50 miles requires a charge of less than two hours. The Bolt also features an optional SAE Combo DC fast charging connector so the battery can be charged to deliver up to 90 miles of range in just 30 minutes at a public fast charger, if one is available.
Electricity is supplied to a 200 horsepower drive motor featuring 266 lb-ft torque that delivers 0-60 mph acceleration under 7 seconds and a top speed of 91 mph. Power delivery is controlled by Chevrolet’s first Electronic Precision Shift system. This shift and park-by-wire system sends electronic signals to the Bolt EV’s drive unit to manage precise feel and delivery of power and torque based on drive mode selection and accelerator inputs. A by-wire shifter requires less packaging space than a traditional mechanical shifter resulting in more interior space and improved interior layout.
Regenerative braking has become more than a means to boost range by recapturing energy. Now it can also can provide an improved EV driving experience. The Bolt EV has a new regenerative braking system that can provide one pedal driving through a combination of increased regenerative deceleration and software controls. When operating in Low mode or by holding the Regen-on-Demand paddle located on the back of the steering wheel, a driver can bring the vehicle to a complete stop under most circumstances by simply lifting their foot off the accelerator. However, the system does not eliminate the need to use the brake pedal altogether. Operating in Drive mode without pulling the paddle while decelerating requires using the brake pedal to stop.
he Bolt EV will offer connectivity and infotainment technologies that seamlessly integrate smartphones and other electronic devices. Low energy Bluetooth, designed specifically for the Bolt EV to minimize energy usage, seamlessly connects a smartphone to the car as an owner approaches the vehicle. Many of the Bolt’s technologies are supported by OnStar 4G LTE, which turns the Bolt EV into a Wi-Fi hotspot that provides easier access to apps and services via a high-speed wireless connection.
Additional connectivity and infotainment features include a 10.2-inch MyLink color touchscreen display, rear camera mirror, and Surround Vision that provides a bird’s-eye view around the Bolt for improved safety during low-speed driving and while parking. An all-new MyChevrolet Mobile App combines important owner and vehicle information and functions including battery charge status, OnStar Map service, remote start, cabin pre-conditioning, owner’s manual information, and dealer service scheduling. EV-specific navigation capability provides routes that maximize range and while identifying nearby charging locations. In the future an accurate driving range projection will be based on the time of day, topography, weather, and an owner’s driving habits.
The Bolt will be built at GM’s Orion, Michigan assembly facility while its battery pack, motor, and drive components will come from Korea. Its price is expected to be $37,500, a figure that dips below $30,000 after full federal tax credits.
There’s something almost magical about plugging your car into an outlet at night and waking up to a full ‘tank’ in the morning. There’s no need for a stop at the gas station, ever. Plus, there’s no nagging guilt that the miles metered out by the odometer are counting off one’s contribution toward any societal and environmental ills attendant with fossil fuel use.
This is a feeling experienced during the year Green Car Journal editors drove GM’s remarkable EV1 electric car in the late 1990s. Daily drives in the EV1 were a joy. The car was sleek, high-tech, distinctive, and with the electric motor’s torque coming on from zero rpm, decidedly fast. That’s a potent combination.
The EV1 is long gone, not because people or companies ‘killed’ it as the so-called documentary Who Killed the Electric Car suggested, but rather because extraordinarily high costs and a challenging business case were its demise. GM lost many tens of thousands of dollars on every EV1 it built, as did other automakers complying with California’s Zero EmissionsVehicle (ZEV) mandate in the 1990s.
Even today, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says his company loses $14,000 for every Fiat 500e electric car sold. Combine that with today’s need for an additional $7,500 federal tax credit and up to $6,000 in subsidies from some states to encourage EV purchases, and it’s easy to see why the electric car remains such a challenge.
This isn’t to say that electric cars are the wrong idea. On the contrary, they are perceived as important to our driving future, so much so that government, automakers, and their suppliers see electrification as key to meeting mandated 2025 fleet-wide fuel economy requirements and CO2 reduction goals. The problem is that there’s no singular, defined roadmap for getting there because costs, market penetration, and all-important political support are future unknowns.
The advantages of battery electric vehicles are well known – extremely low per-mile operating costs on electricity, less maintenance, at-home fueling, and of course no petroleum use. Add in the many societal incentives available such as solo driving in carpool lanes, preferential parking, and free public charging, and the case for electrics gets even more compelling. If a homeowner’s solar array is offsetting the electricity used to energize a car’s batteries for daily drives, then all the better. This is the ideal scenario for a battery electric car. Of course, things are never this simple, otherwise we would all be driving electric.
There remain some very real challenges. Government regulation, not market forces, has largely been driving the development of the modern electric car. This is a good thing or bad, depending upon one’s perspective. The goal is admirable and to some, crucial – to enable driving with zero localized emissions, eliminate CO2 emissions, reduce oil dependence, and drive on an energy source created from diverse resources that can be sustainable. Where’s the downside in that?
Still, new car buyers have not stepped up to buy battery electric cars in expected, or perhaps hoped-for, numbers, especially the million electric vehicles that Washington had set out as its goal by 2015. This is surprising to many since electric vehicle choices have expanded in recent years. However, there are reasons for this.
Electric cars are often quite expensive in comparison to their gasoline-powered counterparts, although government and manufacturer subsidies can bring these costs down. Importantly, EVs offer less functionality than conventional cars because of limited driving range that averages about 70 to 100 miles before requiring a charge. While this zero-emission range can fit the commuting needs of many two-vehicle households and bring substantial fuel savings, there’s a catch. Factoring future fuel savings into a vehicle purchase decision is simply not intuitive to new car buyers today.
Many drivers who would potentially step up to electric vehicle ownership can’t do so because most electric models are sold only in California or a select number of ‘green’ states where required zero emission vehicle credits are earned. These states also tend to have at least a modest charging infrastructure in place. Manufacturers selling exclusively in these limited markets typically commit to only small build numbers, making these EVs fairly insignificant in influencing electric vehicle market penetration.
Battery electric vehicles available today include the BMW i3, BMW i8, Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul EV, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan LEAF, Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, Tesla Model S, Toyota RAV4 EV, and VW e-Golf. While most aim at limited sales, some like BMW, Nissan, and Tesla market their EVs nationwide. The Honda Fit EV and Toyota RAV4 EV are being phased out. Fleet-focused EVs are also being offered by a small number of independent companies. Other battery electrics are coming.
BMW’s i3 offers buyers an optional two-cylinder gasoline range extender that generates on-board electricity to double this electric car’s battery electric driving range. A growing number of electrified models like the current generation Prius Plug-In and Chevy Volt can also run exclusively on battery power for a more limited number of miles (10-15 for the Prius and up to 40 miles in the Volt), and then drive farther with the aid of a combustion engine or engine-generator. Both will offer greater all-electric driving range when they emerge as all-new 2016 models. Many extended range electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids like these are coming soon from a surprising number of auto manufacturers.
It has been an especially tough road for independent or would-be automakers intent on introducing electric vehicles to the market. Well-funded efforts like Coda Automotive failed, as have many lesser ones over the years. Often enough, inventors of electric cars have been innovative and visionary, only to discover that becoming an auto manufacturer is hugely expensive and more challenging than imagined. In many cases their timeline from concept and investment to production and sales becomes so long that before their first cars are produced, mainstream automakers have introduced models far beyond what they were offering, and at lesser cost with an established sales and service network to support them.
A high profile exception is Tesla Motors, the well-funded Silicon Valley automaker that successfully built and sold its $112,000 electric Tesla Roadster, continued its success with the acclaimed $70,000-$100,000+ Model S electric sedan, and will soon deliver its first Tesla Model X electric crossovers. While Tesla has said it would offer the Model X at a price similar to that of the Model S, initial deliveries of the limited Model X Signature Series will cost a reported $132,000-$144,000. It has not yet been announced when lower cost 'standard' Model X examples will begin deliveries to Tesla's sizable customer pre-order list.
Tesla’s challenge is not to prove it can produce compelling battery electric cars, provide remarkable all-electric driving range, or build a wildly enthusiastic – some would say fanatical – customer base. It has done all this. Its challenge is to continue this momentum by developing a full model lineup that includes a promised affordable model for the masses, its Model 3, at a targeted $35,000 price tag. It will be interesting to see if the Model 3 ultimately comes to market at that price point.
This is no easy thing. Battery costs remain very high and, in fact, Tesla previously shared that the Tesla Roadster’s battery pack cost in the vicinity of $30,000. While you can bury the cost of an expensive battery pack in a high-end electric car that costs $70,000 to over $100,000, you can’t do that today in a $35,000 model, at least not one that isn’t manufacturer subsidized and provides the 200+ mile range expected of a Tesla.
The company’s answer is a $5 billion ‘Gigafactory’ being built in Nevada that it claims will produce more lithium-ion batteries by 2020 than were produced worldwide in 2013. The company’s publicized goal is to trim battery costs by at least 30 percent to make its $35,000 electric car a reality and support its growing electric car manufacturing. Tesla has said it’s essential that the Gigafactory is in production as the Model 3 begins manufacturing. The billion dollar question is…can they really achieve the ambitious battery and production cost targets to do this over the next few years, or will this path lead to the delays that Tesla previously experienced with the Tesla Roadster, Model S, and Model X?
Tesla is well-underway with its goal of building out a national infrastructure of SuperCharger fast-charge stations along major transportation corridors to enable extended all-electric driving. These allow Tesla vehicles the ability to gain a 50 percent charge in about 20 minutes, although they are not compatible with other EVs. For all others, Bosch is undertaking a limited deployment of its sub-$10,000 DC fast charger that provides an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. A joint effort by ChargePoint, BMW, and VW also aims to create express charging corridors with fast-charge capability on major routes along both coasts in the U.S.
The past 25 years have not secured a future for the battery electric car, but things are looking up. The next 10 years are crucial as cost, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance challenges are tackled and hopefully overcome to make affordable, unsubsidized electric cars a mass-market reality. It is a considerable challenge. Clearly, a lot of people are counting on it.