Before the full reveal next month, we already have a lot of info.
The Model 3 is without a doubt the most important vehicle that Tesla has ever made, with the possible exception of the Roadster—which got people thinking that electric vehicles could be fast and sexy—and the Model S, which proved that Tesla could ramp up production. In other words, the Model 3 is the latest in a long line of vehicles that Tesla fans are ultra excited for and naysayers say pose a huge risk for the Silicon Valley automaker. Just another day in Tesla CEO Elon Musk's life.
What is it?
Tesla's big bet on the future, the Model 3 is supposed to be the Tesla that someone who can't afford a Tesla will be able to afford. It is also the last step of Musk's first Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan: "Build sports car. Use that money to build an affordable car. Use that money to build an even more affordable car."
How much will it cost?
The Model 3 will be Tesla's lowest-cost EV, with a price of $35,000 USD (Canadian pricing hasn't been confirmed) before any government incentives. Even though production is going to start in mid-2017, Tesla has over 300,000 pre-orders of the Model 3, so if you order one today, you won't get it until mid-2018. Also, you'll be paying something close to full price. Exactly how much we don't know yet, because the government EV incentives may or may not be around come that time.
What will the interior be like?
This is one of the biggest questions remaining for the Model 3. Tesla has said the 3 will have a 15-inch centre-mounted touchscreen (compared to the driver display and an 17-inch touchscreen in the S and the X). This screen may be "floating," as you can see in the picture below, rather than the embedded screen in the other Teslas. This is a potentially risky move, but there's a good chance that we will think of it as normal in the near future. Forward-leaning companies have a tendency to change minds like that.
What can it do?
Tesla has released the preliminary spec sheet for the Model 3, mostly as a way to encourage potential Tesla buyers to choose the Model S today rather than wait for the Model 3 in a year. Zero-emission is just the beginning of what makes the Model 3 impressive. A 0-60 mile per hour (0-96 kilometre per hour) time of 5.6 seconds, a range of over 345 kilometres, around 100 configurations, an optional glass roof, and 18- or 19-inch wheels. Unlike the more expensive Model S or X, Model 3 drivers will have to pay to use Tesla's expanding Supercharger network.
The Model 3 will also have "Full Self-Driving Capability," which likely means that you will be able to get Autopilot turned on, for an extra cost.
When can I buy one?
You can pre-order a Model 3 now, but as we noted above, you won't get it until the middle of 2018. There are a few hundred thousand people that have already put money down for a Model 3, after all, and they'll all be getting their EVs before you. No other automaker has ever taken this many orders for a car that's not on sale yet, so there might be some quirks in the process. In other words, Tesla would like you to consider ordering a Model S instead.
What will it look like?
Tesla showed off the pre-production version of the Model 3 last year, and isn't doing much to hide its new test vehicles. It seems like every day people post new sightings of various prototypes around San Francisco, some with the trunk open, and in different colours. The Model 3 is in many ways a smaller Model S—it is confirmed to have a shorter wheelbase than the S and X—but we'll know exactly what it will look like when the final Model 3 reveal happens some time in July.
What's under the hood?
A frunk. The EV has room for five and 396 litres of trunk volume, adding up front and rear compartments.
If you're thinking more traditionally, then what's "under the hood" is a skateboard-style chassis with a battery pack (maxed out at 75 kWh, according to Musk) and will come with rear-wheel drive as standard, with "Dual Motor" (all-wheel drive) as an option.
Where will it be built?
Tesla's Fremont factory has been getting upgrades and new robots as it prepares for the start of Model 3 production later this year, alongside potential UAW organization and lots of hiring going on. It's a busy time, but if you're going to build your first true mass-market vehicle, you can't take it easy.