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Could the Tesla Model 3 forever change the way we think about electric cars?

Could the Tesla Model 3 forever change the way we think about electric cars?
Simon Moynihan

Simon Moynihan

Staff Writer

The new Tesla Motors Model 3 could be a world changer. It has achieved the biggest product launch ever, it will be relatively affordable, and it could change the way we think about personal electric transport forever.

When Elon Must launched the Tesla Model 3 in California on 31 March 2016, even he could not have imagined that just a week later he’d have more than 325,000 pre-orders for the new $35,000 electric car.

Those pre-orders aren’t just names and addresses either. Each and every potential customer had to put down $1,000 to get their name on the waiting list – which put a staggering $325 million into Tesla’s Model 3 war chest without shipping a single car. And Tesla did this without any advertising either. And what’s even more amazing is that the first cars won’t even be delivered until the end of 2017!

Biggest one-week launch of any product ever

Tesla Motors has said that because of the $14 billion in potential future Model 3 sales, this has quite simply been “the single biggest one-week launch of any product ever.”

And I don’t think that it’s any exaggeration to say that we could be witnessing a world changing event here too. People may look back at the 2016 launch of the Tesla Model 3 and say that it marked the true beginning of the electrification of personal transportation.

Sure, there are plenty of electric cars on the world’s roads already. And Nissan has sold more than 200,000 LEAFs since launching the world’s most popular electric car five years ago. But Tesla Motors has ostensibly blown that five year sales figure out of the water in just one week!

So why do so many people want the Tesla Model 3?

Tesla has been building up interest in and demand for a cool affordable electric car for years. They started with their Lotus inspired Roadster electric sports car, and then moved up to the Tesla Model S which they built specifically to compete with the great sedan cars of the world.

Tesla wanted to show that an electric car could really compete with and beat the best of them. And they did. The Model S was repeatedly voted the best sedan in the market by multiple publications and periodicals the world over…

There’s one problem though. The Model S is expensive and it’s out of the range of most working people. But people were inspired nonetheless. Here’s a car that overcomes most of the challenges and prejudices that electric cars face. It’s cool. It’s fast. It can be driven long distances on a single charge. And it looks just fantastic.

And selling the Model S and its SUV counterpart the Model X to the well-heeled of Silicon Valley and the City of London gave Tesla Motors the reddies they needed to pay for the development of the Model 3.

Tesla Model 3 – affordable and practical?

Although the Tesla Model 3 will start at a reasonable enough $35,000 in the USA, we don’t yet know what it will cost here. But probably in the region of €40,000 if you were to order it from mainland Europe.

But this is Ireland, so you’d have to pay VAT and VRT which would probably bring the cost up to €55,000 (I’m basing this on real sums and a bit of guesswork!). So even though it’s billed as an affordable Tesla, it won’t be cheap here. And unless they open an Irish shop, you’ll have to ship it in. And based on the extraordinary pre-orders received so far, it could be years before we see the first Model 3 on Irish roads.

So is it practical? It certainly looks like a decent family sedan. And although Tesla has been pretty quiet on the specs for the Model 3, the Internet chat seems to suggest that the battery will be 50 kilowatt hours based on the projected 215 mile range (346 kilometres). So it will be well capable of most commutes and most medium road trips.

And so it’s on to the bit we like to do…

How would the Tesla Model 3 compare to a similarly spec’d diesel car?

Well if you had a Tesla Model 3 in your garage right now and you plugged it in overnight on the cheapest NightSaver tariff, it should cost just €3.68 to fully charge the car based on a 50 kWh battery.* Which is a bit like filling your tank for the price of a latte.

That certainly sounds cheap, but what does it really mean in terms we are used to?

Well, a litre of diesel costs about €1.05 right now. And if you had a BMW 320d (which won WHATCAR’s Green Car of the Year a few years back) you’d be getting a staggering 60 miles to the gallon – or 4.7 litres per 100 kilometres. Which is pretty darn good right?

It is good... that is, until you compare it to the Tesla, which will do 346km on a full charge costing just €3.68. Which is the equivalent of just under 1 liter per 100 kilometres. Or or 286 miles per gallon!

So one of the best combustion cars does 60 miles per gallon, but the Tesla could do the equivalent of 286 miles per gallon. This makes the Tesla (theoretically) nearly five times cheaper to run than one of the most efficient comparable cars on the market.

Anyway, efficiency is only half the point. Coolness matters too. And as Elon Musk said:

“At Tesla we don’t make slow cars”

The Tesla Model 3 will do zero to sixty in less than six seconds which is proper boy-racer fast. In fact, it's about as quick as the Golf GTI. But even that won’t be the most important bit for most people. It’s the range and the price that really matter. And Tesla says that by the time full production of the Model 3 kicks in, they hope to improve on the range too. And I certainly hope that by the time it is available here, the price will improve too!

Sustainable Transport

During the Model 3 launch, Elon Musk said  that a driving force behind the Tesla Model 3 is the need to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport - not just because the carbon concentration in our atmosphere is at its highest level in 11 million years, and our planet is heating up at an extraordinary rate - but also because combustion cars emit toxic gasses that are killing us in our thousands.

And here’s another thought: Ireland has enormous electricity generational capacity which is underutilised at certain times of day. Without going into too much detail, just think of wind off the west coast of Ireland blowing through wind turbines in the middle of the night. Now imagine that generated electricity flowing into the batteries of our cars while we sleep. It’s a vision of the future that could be closer than we think.


You can see the Tesla Model 3 Launch event video here

We wrote about the Tesla Model S three years ago and you can see that blog here

*Energia SAVEME260 NightSaver unit rate of 7.35 cent per kWh inc VAT.

Tesla Photo by: Steve Jurvetson


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