It might be more than just Tesla's most important car

Everyone’s getting very excited about the announcement of the Tesla Model 3, and for good reasons – it’s a Tesla with a 215 mile range and a $35,000 price tag. This is pretty much in Nissan Leaf country, for a car with twice the driving range – so I’m not all that surprised that more than 250,000 people have put down a hefty deposit to pre-order one.

I’ll admit straight off that it’s not for me – I’d still rather have my diesel Golf (no, it’s not one of those ones) – but the Model 3 is a big deal for the future of Tesla, the future of electric cars, and maybe the future of the battery industry. Many observers have been debating whether this is the make or break moment for the company, and it might well be – its losses increased to almost $900m last year, and the company’s share price decreased 40% before it was restored after Tesla announced last month that it expects to finally become profitable this year.

I doubt Tesla will actually go bust, but if it somehow does, or if the Model 3 doesn’t meet expectations, I think it could seriously shake public confidence in electric cars in general. Again, the Model 3 being a flop seems unlikely given Tesla’s image and reputation for customer service, but concerns have surfaced about the build quality and reliability of their other cars:

It’s one thing to have a quirky, problematic car that sells 20,000 units per year to wealthy people who probably own at least one backup vehicle. It’s quite another when Tesla scales up to its 2020 projection of 200,000 U.S. Model 3 buyers, who may not have the luxury of being so forgiving.

I probably seem pessimistic and down on electric cars in general, and I don’t hide the fact that I wouldn’t want to own any all-battery-powered car as they exist today (and for the forseeable future). I would rather consider a hybrid like the Golf GTE, but even that is rather expensive for a car which in practice is no more fuel-efficient than my diesel one (yes, I know I’m oversimplifying a bit). I am looking on with interest, though. There’s a lot to like about electric cars, but too many drawbacks for me at the moment – but a company like Tesla who can capture the headlines and early adopters has to encourage innovation across the industry. The announcement of the Model 3 at least makes me think that one day I’ll be properly convinced.

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