Tesla has made a major advancement toward its aim of making electric cars available to all with the roll-out of its latest Model 3 car.
The first batch of the affordable electric vehicles emerged from the company’s California factory on Friday, kick-starting an ambitious production drive that many think could revolutionise the industry.
More than 500,000 customers have placed deposits for the vehicles, which will now be produced at a rate of 5,000 a week, increasing to 10,000 a week next year.
Tesla founder Elon Musk called the Model 3 “the best car for its cost, either electric or gasoline”, and called the achievement a major step towards the aim of an electric car “that everyone can buy”.
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The new vehicles will market at around £27,000 ($35,000), significantly cheaper than the £60,000 ($80,000) price tag of Tesla’s current S and X models.
Mr Musk said revenue from the more expensive models has funded the new line.
Smaller than its higher-range predecessors and with fewer options, the Model 3 still comes equipped with on-board computers that Mr Musk says prepare it for a self-driving future.
But he added that coordinating thousands of parts from global suppliers meant that even small mishaps could cause delays to his ambitious targets.
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“Welcome to production hell,” he quipped at Friday’s launch. “This is where we are for at least six months.”
The majority of the vehicle’s first buyers are Tesla employees. Many ordering the Model 3 have been told not to expect their cars until next year.
While the high volume of orders has it tipped as a game-changer, the Model 3 is not the first affordable electric car on the market. GM’s Bolt model also sells at $35,000, but poor sales have recently prompted a pause in its production.
Mr Musk, an internationally renowned tech entrepreneur, also runs projects building rechargeable batteries to power homes, sending paying customers to the moon, and designing near-supersonic rail travel.
The impressive sales of the Model 3 could mark a breakthrough for Tesla and electric cars, which until now have comprised only a small portion of the auto market.
Gene Munster, an analyst with research firm Loup Ventures, said Tesla could transform the industry.
“We believe we will eventually look back at the launch of the Model 3 and compare it to the iPhone, which proved to be the catalyst for the shift to mobile computing,” he said.