Tesla’s Model 3 is supposed to be a game-changing vehicle for both the company and the EV industry as a whole. Up to this point, Tesla’s business model has revolved around selling a relative handful of luxury vehicles. The Model 3 is supposed to drive economies of scale by scaling to far higher volumes, and Tesla has said it’s adding 1,800 reservations a day for the vehicle.
According to Tesla, the standard version of the Model 3 will have a 220-mile range, while an extended Long Range variant will be available with a 310-mile range. The Long Range variant can also go 0-60 in 5.1 seconds and has an 80.5kW battery, according to the EPA’s report:
The EPA reports that the vehicle’s battery provides 350V and 230 amp hours, which works out to a 80.5 kilowatt-hour battery. That’s actually better than the Model S provided on a slightly larger battery; the Model S with an 85KWh battery had a range of 253 to 272 miles, depending on the variant you purchased, according to the EPA’s figures.
Part of the variation between the two is likely due to weight. The curb weight on the Model S is ~4,600 – 4,750 pounds for the 85kWh variants and rises to 4,960 pounds for the P100D with its larger battery. The Model 3’s curb weight, in contrast, is 3,837 pounds. That’s a significant slash compared with the Model S.
EPA tests have previously shown that reducing vehicle weight is one of the best ways to improve fuel economy, with a 1-percent improvement per 100 miles of reduced weight. As Autoblog details, a study by the Aluminum Association found that eliminating 10 percent of vehicle weight improved fuel economy by 4.1 percent, while cutting 20 percent of weight improved fuel economy by 8.4 percent. It’s not clear if EVs follow exactly the same formula, and we’d expect some slush even between gasoline vehicles. Still, it’s clear that at least some of the Model 3’s improved range on a smaller battery is courtesy of having less junk in the trunk.
The Model 3 is, in many ways, the true make-or-break moment for Tesla. The Model X was a variation on a luxury vehicle theme, but nobody thought the company’s fate was riding on the vehicle’s success. Scaling up Model 3 production, in contrast, means dramatically increasing Tesla’s monthly raw materials supply, battery production, and manufacturing speed.
If Tesla can pull this scaling off, it’ll have a killer brand name attached to a (relatively) affordable vehicle with which to take on the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf. If the company runs into problems, investors could start getting jittery given Tesla’s significant rate of cash burn and the difficulties of competing with the established automotive industry. If Elon Musk is wise, he’ll leave building Hyperloops to others and focus on his car company.