Lower-cost Tesla Model 3: Does 260 miles, $45K before incentives split the difference?

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Those who’ve waited faithfully for the more affordable $35,000 version of the Tesla Model 3 to be built could finally get what they’ve been wanting soon—especially if they live in California, don’t mind a little more battery than what they’d planned for, and are okay with a creative view on the bottom-line numbers.

What will arrive in as little as six weeks, and be available in the U.S. and Canada, is called the Model 3 Mid Range. It’s priced at $45,000, but Tesla notes that with first deliveries of it made before the end of the year, it will be eligible for both the $7,500 federal EV tax credit and a California incentive of $2,500—bringing the price down to that magic $35k number there, and perhaps below that in some places.

Tesla Model 3 Mid Range - on configurator Oct. 18, 2018

Tesla Model 3 Mid Range – on configurator Oct. 18, 2018

The specs: an anticipated EPA range of 260 miles, 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.6 seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph—compared with 310 miles, 5.1 seconds, and 140 mph for the Long Range rear-wheel drive version that was originally introduced. And to be precise, we see a total of $46,200 after the destination/doc fee (and those other taxes that add).

The battery pack itself, according to a Tweet from Musk, is from the Long Range model. By keeping the same pack, but installing fewer cells, Musk commented that “we can get it done now instead of ~February,” referring to when Tesla had last targeted production of the Standard Range model.

@elonmusk confirmation of mid range battery for Model 3

@elonmusk confirmation of mid range battery for Model 3

As with other Model 3 versions, Tesla hasn’t revealed a precise battery capacity; but if it corresponds to range, this battery pack would factor in at about 63 kwh.

Build combinations are reduced versus other versions of the Model 3 lineup. The Mid Range comes in only two interior themes: a Premium Black interior or a Premium Black and White interior. There are five exterior colors and two wheel designs, and the new enhanced Autopilot is a $5,000 option.

“As Model 3 production and sales continue to grow rapidly, we’ve achieved a steady volume in manufacturing capacity, allowing us to diversify our product offering to even more customers,” said a Tesla spokesperson.

Tesla confirmed to Green Car Reports that the 220-mile Standard Range model—the one that was originally targeted for a $35,000 price—remains 4-6 months out. It has what the carmaker describes as “a unique architecture that is not yet in production.”

Elon Musk at Tesla Model 3 reveal

Elon Musk at Tesla Model 3 reveal

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has, at least a couple of times, suggested that selling the Model 3 Standard Range at its originally announced $35k wouldn’t be profitable. In May he hinted a late summer or fall arrival and said that shipping the most affordable Model 3 right away would “cause Tesla to lose money and die.”

With the arrival of the Model 3 Mid Range model, Tesla will no longer sell the rear-wheel drive Long Range version. If that’s the model you still want, Musk noted that it will be available “off menu for another week or so.”

On its build site, Tesla listed an estimated delivery in 6-10 weeks for the Mid Range model, as opposed to 4-8 weeks for the Long Range All-Wheel Drive or All-Wheel Drive Performance versions. That’s a timeline that could just eke a number of cars through for delivery—especially perhaps in California and on the West Coast—in time for the full $7,500 tax credit.

Customers taking delivery starting in January will only be able to claim $3,750 for the federal EV tax credit. And while that may not be a dealbreaker in itself, it’s drifting farther away, once again, from the Model 3’s original promise. But will you meet them halfway?

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