In just 13 years, Tesla Motors is set to release its fourth model next year
Some may find this hard to believe, but Tesla is one of the most influential carmakers in history. While the company has existed since 2003, it was in 2006 that it unveiled its very first model, the Roadster. It could travel over 320km on a single charge, and went on to set a world record in 2009 by traveling 501km on a single charge in the Global Green Challenge.
It’s impressive for any battery-powered electric vehicle—and much more so for one that’s built to be a sports car.
What’s more, the Roadster is credited to have spurred other manufacturers into developing their own Evs. The Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf are often mentioned in the same breath.
Tesla’s next car, the Model S released in 2012, pushed the boundaries of what the public should expect an EV to be. Some of its avant-garde features were a large central touchscreen, virtual instruments, on-board GPS and a built-in web browser, a windshield-mounted forward-facing camera, a forward-facing radar on the lower grille, and sonars all around.
The game-changing bit, however, was how run-of-the-mill driver aids were repurposed via an over-the-air software update sent to all Model S units, enabling them to have semi-autonomous driving capability. Dubbed AutoPilot by Tesla, thesystem reduced driver fatigue by allowing the vehicle to almost drive itself with hardly any input from the driver, as long as the driver’s hands remained in contact with the steering wheel. Letting go of the tiller more than three times in an hour would prompt the car to safely pull over to a stop and disable the system.
Another innovation was the relocation of the battery pack to the lowest point of the vehicle—the whole floor between the front and rear wheels. Doing so allowed the Model S to have a more rigid structure compared with a conventionally designed vehicle, while allowing for a low center of gravity and lower polar moment of inertia.
Stripped of the passenger shell, the section of the chassis that provides motive action looks like a flat panel with four wheels held up by shock absorbers at each corner. The more astute observer will easily recognize this as an ingenious modular platform upon which many other types of vehicles could be built just by changing what goes on top of the structure. The design also allowed the easy incorporation of all-wheel drive by adding a second motor to the non- powered axle without the need to accommodate a driveshaft from one axle to the other. Power output changes are via motor swaps or possibly software changes.
Finally, the Model X is Tesla’s seven-seater SUV built on a modified Model S platform, and incorporating all the bells and whistles from its sedan sibling while bringing some of its own most notably the sheet-metal-penetrating, sonar-equipped rear gullwing doors. Dubbed ‘falcon- wing doors’, they hinge above the windows to reduce the amount of space needed to fully open in tight parking spaces.
“The Model 3 comes in a package that is 20% smaller than the Model S”
The Model 3, promised to be released in late 2017, is the latest iteration of Tesla’s master plan. The upcoming car comes in a package that is supposed to be 20% smaller than the Model S, but has all the features and creature comforts of the larger siblings without dramatically compromising passenger comfort.
The front seat is moved forward for more rear-passenger space than would normally be possible. Front legroom doesn’t suffer because the absence of a combustion engine up front means that conventional limitations don’t apply; the ‘firewall’ is moved forward to allow proper accommodations for both driver and front passenger.
If there’s anything that’s missing from the Model 3, it would be the lack of a conventional grille. With a ‘frunk’ (front trunk) occupying the space instead of an internal-combustion engine, there’s no need for one. More conventional folks will be moan the lack of a grille, which does make the Model 3’s front end look somewhat incomplete.
That said, we bet almost everyone will overlook it when they find out about the Model 3’s biggest strength affordability. The starting price of $35,000 is less than half of what a typical Model S currently commands. All Model 3s are to come with Supercharging capability as well. In case you’re not familiar with them, Tesla Superchargers are stations that quickly recharge Teslas at no additional cost to owners.
Now, what could be more game-changing than the latest from Tesla?
PANORAMIC GLASS ROOF
Tesla equips the Model 3 with a panoramic glass roof to enhance the feeling of roominess.
ZERO TO 100KPH
The Model 3 promises to achieve nil to century in less than 6sec. That’s slower than the 2.8sec time of the Model S, but still plenty fast.
17-INCH CENTRAL LCD
Doing away with physical switches, the LCD is multi-touch, controlling all the auxiliary features and then some. Its functions are configurable by Tesla anytime via over-the-air updates.
The same electronics that allow the Model S and X to drive semi-autonomously are also on the Model 3, meaning this car is as generously equipped as any other Tesla, if not more so. It just doesn’t break the bank.
Without the physical space limitations set by the presence of a ‘dirty’ internal-combustion engine up front, the Model 3 increases passenger space by pushing the firewall forward to give front and rear occupants alike plenty of legroom.