Based on the specs and reviews of the Model 3 and feedback from US owners here’s where we expect the Model 3 to win and lose against old tech options like the latest BMW 3 series or C class Mercedes. Scores go from 0 where the Tesla struggles to 100% where it walks over the competition.
The exterior design of the Model 3 is well balanced, attractive and hasn’t dated but it works in a fairly subtle way, almost bordering on dull. If, instead of being an advanced high performance EV, the Model 3 had been given an average 1.8 litre stinky diesel power plant, the design would not be getting much attention.
Indeed the exterior would struggle to justify its price point, but that isn’t the point – the point is the design doesn’t need to impress in an obvious way – the Model 3s other talents see to that. Where the design delivers is in providing a drag coefficient of 23. The 3 most aerodymic cars in production have a cd figure of 22 so the Model 3 design is amongst the best. This really matters – a conventional car that is less aerodynamic uses more fuel at higher speeds but an EV using more power will have reduced range and need more frequent charging when travelling at speed. So a cd of 23 makes the Model 3 more efficient. Indeed there are claims its 17 inch aero wheels add up to 10% more range compared to the prettier 19 and 20 inch alloys.
The interior is more bold. With almost a complete lack of switches and most controls and dials replaced with a big responsive tablet stuck in the centre of the dash. Again were it not for the other attributes of the car the interior might have made many buyers seek a more familier interior setup – but as an example of minimalist, functional design, it works, especially teamed up with the fantastic glass roof. It should be a relaxing place to be and it feels like a piece of tech.
Variants and models
German carmakers have mastered the art of filling every niche possible with cars like the C class and 3 series saloon ranges spawning estates, 2 door coupes, 4 door coupes, 5 door coupes, hatchbacks, crossovers, SUV coupes and SUVs. Arguably they’ve taken things a little far but against this confusing onslaught Tesla offers a single saloon, shaped like a hatch, with few obvious styling or other options.
The Tesla has to attract buyers from as many variants as it can. The halo of its tech and performance makes this possible, along with 4 wheel drive options that broaden its appeal.
Just in case ICE carmakers thought they could relax, holding onto lucrative SUV sales, Tesla has the new model Y, a perfectly sized SUV, to tear through this market too.. with deliveries starting by the start of 2021.
A clear win for Tesla. No one laughs at the model 3s performance with 0-62 acceleration from around 5.7 seconds for the slowest $35k base model that was recently announced to 4.7 seconds for the standard long range and around 3.7 seconds for the “fast” performance version.
Despite petrol and diesel models like the 3 series and C class representing the culmination of over a century of development of the internal combustion engine, the model 3 wins easily the performance, mechanical refinement and low noise level battle and and goes round corners too. Some ICE cars may have a slight handling advantage but the Tesla has a lower centre of gravity and plenty of grip.
The competing cars are excellent cars, in the same way the Mallard was an excellent steam locomotive.
The Telsa’s range of performance is in a different bracket from competing conventional cars. Ironically, pure performance will most likely cease to be a differentiator for cars in the future – why spend hundreds of thousands on a Ferrari if the smallest Tesla can match or beat it off the lights. Porsche have acknowledged that EVs are the future of performance and have accelerated their EV plans accordingly but once you’re down to 3.3 seconds to 62 mph does anyone really want to halve it?
The model 3 can’t offer the same practicality of all the variants other premium makers offer. It would be better from this perspective if it had a hatchback. But the boot is big enough, with additional room under it and folding rear seats and a front trunk as well. For most occasions it can carry 4 or 5 passengers and all their luggage. Just expect the Christmas tree to be a squeeze in December and the fridge will just need to be delivered.
Its worth noting that more advanced pure EVs like the model 3 or Jaguar i-Pace usually put all their batteries under the floor of the car with no loss of space and better weight distribution – set low with even distribution from front to back. By contrast EVs and plugin hybrids converted from an old combustion tech car often lose a large chunk of bootspace to batteries & poor weight distribution when cornering.
Another easy win for the model 3. Zero NOx, no Carbon Monoxide and no particulate emissions from the exhaust and thanks to regenerative breaking (where the electric motors slow the car by recharging the batteries) much less PM2.5 and PM10 particulate from the brakes as well.
ICE cars have got bigger over the last 2 decades as diesel enabled heavy inefficient cars to be affordable. They got so much bigger that it almost entirely offset the CO2 benefits of the more efficient of the engines.
Apart from illusory CO2 reductions, the cost was in human life as diesels caused 100s of thousands of early deaths across Europe through toxic diesel pollution. Clean diesels are possible to make but they aren’t affordable and they aren’t the future any more. More than that the stigma of driving a diesel is well on the way to matching its filthy exhaust while taxes and clean air charges are beginning to reflect their health cost to people around them.
Since dieselgate carmakers have simultaneously claimed that new diesels are clean (a few really are) while at the same time fighting regulations that would have ensured they really did become clean. Diesel cars and vans producing 20x as much NOx as a petrol car remain on sale in 2019.
By contrast the Tesla gives owners the warm glow of knowing they produce no toxic exhaust emissions.. The higher CO2 involved in making an EV is offset by the much lower CO2 running it and EVs are expected to have much longer operational lives than complex ICE cars. Meanwhile the CO2 of EV’s will actually get lower over the next decade as power generation switches to renewables.
EVs are cheaper to run than conventional cars.
Even when fast charging (for which costs are higher, much like fuel at motorway services) the cost should be lower than petrol or diesel car. Costs for charging slowly or at home should be much lower especially in urban driving.
EVs have much fewer moving parts so servicing is a much cheaper process and the cars themselves should last much longer.
EV incentives including free charging, city driving and parking all add to the virtuous circle.
Depreciation has been a weakness for early EVs but demand is rising while a Tesla can become a better car each year you own it thanks to over the air updates.
Charging and Range
Any EV involves a level of compromise compared to a petrol or diesel car. This was especially true with EVs that have very limited range and were slow to charge. That said Tesla have worked hard to ensure a Model 3 is easy to swap to hence the score here.
With EPA and WLTP ranges of over 300 miles available the Tesla Model 3 avoids the downside of needing to recharge for most journeys. Not only that it goes further per kWh in its batteries than EVs from other carmakers that haven’t even delivered their models to customers yet.
We would expect real world range for a Model 3 in a city or motorway under 75 mph of:
300 miles+ in a RWD long range model (not yet on sale in Europe)
265 miles+ in a dual motor long range with 17″ aero wheels
250 miles or just under in a dual motor performance with 19″ standard wheels
By comparison the bigger European SUV trio of Jaguar I-Pace, Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC are likely to be in the 200 to 230 mile range ballpark with bigger batteries offset by more weight and less slippery shape and greater surface area especially at above 75 mph
Tesla are also unique in having their own dedicated supercharger charging network. Not only can Tesla 3 use most normal chargers, they have their own network that is much faster.
Tesla also keep innovating. Their new V3 chargers due in UK toward the end of 2019 will add 75 miles of range to a model 3 every 5 minutes. So 200 miles should take about 12 minutes. This not only makes the the charging itself faster, it also means each charger will be able to charge many more cars in an hour than the slower public chargers that EV’s from other makes have to use. Public chargers will get faster and other brands are building charging networks but for now Tesla is at least 2 years ahead.. and annoyingly for other brands their pace of innovation doesn’t seem to slow.
Its best to think of your Tesla like a smartphone. It has computing power and hardware including a range of cameras and sensors around the vehicle. Its equipped to offer a high level of driving assistance which could lead to autonomous driving via future updates.
Updates are key to the Tesla. If a feature of the car doesn’t work well and they get feedback from owners Tesla can release and update and fix or improve the issue. For example in March 2019 and update actually improved the range of existing level American model 3s by 15 miles. These updates are done over the air without a dealer visit being required. You simply get into your Tesla in the morning and find something has been improved!
When you buy a normal petrol or diesel car you expect it to be delivered between three and eight weeks later. While the Tesla may take a little longer than this they are the only electric car maker able to deliver long range EVs in Europe in large volumes. Most EVs from European and Korean carmakers have waiting lists for delivery of between five and 12 months for 2019 because supplies are too limited to match demand.
By the end of 2018 Tesla was already building Model 3 at a rate of 300,000 a year and aims to increase this to nearly 500,000 by the end of 2019. So while other excellent EV is like the Kia Niro Are on sale they have waiting lists and you can no longer in March 2019 order a car to be delivered in..2019! By comparison Tesla delivering over 100 Model 3s a day in Norway alone since going on sale in February 2019.
The Tesla Model 3 has immediately become the top selling EV in the left hand drive markets in Europe. In Norway it has a remarkable start.
We believe the Tesla Model 3 will sell very strongly in Europe and the UK, not just against other EVs but against the old tech diesel and petrol models. Not because everyone thinks its their ideal car but because it offers technology that is the future and available at least 2 years ahead of the competition. Ironically the strategy of the category 1 and 2 carmakers talking up electrification and drawing out the model reveal to delivery time to over 2 years will play into Teslas hands by raising the profile of long range EVs at a time when only Tesla can deliver them.
With the new V3 Tesla charger network on the way and Tesla having just bought in new battery options with it’s purchase of Maxwell technology it is far from clear that most legacy carmakers are even catching up with Teslas lead. They will..but when?