14 years ago, Elon Musk founded Tesla Motors at the heart of Silicon Valley, an area known not for cars, but for technology. In this area sprawling across the south of San Francisco Bay Area are the headquarters of Apple, Google, Intel, Yahoo, and Tesla, places that put technology ahead over anything else. Many could argue that Tesla is a tech company first rather than a car company, but that still doesn’t hold the fact that the Tesla Model S is still an electric driver’s car, manual gearbox and lack of engine noise be damned.
A Short Story
Electric cars weren’t as popular as they were today. These cars were slow, and had the driving range of a golf cart and then needing a charge. Tesla’s dream was to fix all that. When the Lotus Elise-based fully electric Tesla Roadster was first released in 2004, Elon Musk wanted to attract a higher end crowd into buying an electric car, and this of course means when the brand was born, it is statured as a high-end car manufacturer. The Tesla Roadster was fast, fun to drive, and more importantly, had a decent driving range that was considered far during that time, even when compared to the Nissan Leaf.
Tesla Model S: The Tesla Dream Made Mainstream (And Viral)
Having gained enough profit for the company to fund his next project, a more mass market, but still premium product, was next in his agenda. The Tesla Model S was born. Its level of quality, refinement, and sheer performance became the subject of many viral YouTube drag racing videos and acceleration reaction videos. There, you will see numerous videos of a Tesla Model S P100D slaying a Ferrari or a Lamborghini in a quarter mile drag race, or recording how people reacted on the electric luxury sedan’s instant brutal torque. The Model S was Elon Musk’s goal of making Tesla attractive and available to a wider audience, albeit a higher demographic audience.
Tesla Model X: Quenching The World’s SUV Thirst
Knowing that SUVs and crossovers are a very lucrative market nowadays, Tesla developed the Model X, an SUV based on the Model S. It still had the supercar slaying straight line capabilities of the Model S, yet has practicality of 7-seats, taller ride height, and a bucket load of fancy tech, notably the Falcon Wing Doors. It was more than just for show, though. The Falcon Wing Doors opened in a way that it was practically impossible to hit the car beside you when a douchebag in a parking lot parks too close beside you. It has a multitude of sensors, too, so that when the doors open, even in low ceiling parking lots, hitting the ceiling or another car was practically impossible, unless of course the sensors went haywire and created a ruckus.
Tesla Model 3: Elon Musk’s Dream Come True
The Model X, though, was too fancy and too complicated to produce for its own good, and even Elon Musk admitted that. Finally, when the cumulative sales of the Model S and Model X reaped enough money for Elon Musk to finally fulfill his dream of creating a simpler, more mainstream electric car, his ultimate lifelong dream project pushed through, and we now have here in our eyes the Tesla Model 3, a Civic-sized Tesla electric car. The car was revealed March last year, and finally, today, the first 30 customers, mostly Tesla employees, are getting their hands on one. It is priced competitively, being one of the most affordable electric cars out there, but US$35,000 is still more than a Civic Type R in the USA. Nevertheless, it meant that a simpler, more affordable Tesla is now available to consumers, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it misses out from the quirks and cool features we’ve come to known from the Fremont, California-based start up.
The Model 3 still has Tesla’s famous giant LCD touchscreen infotainment system, but that’s it. No driver-facing speedometer, and no aircon vents. Well, there are, but they’re out of plain sight, yet that’s all it needs to cool the cabin. The interior is clean, and extremely minimalist. You might ask, how am I going to see how fast I am driving? Well, the speedometer is on the top left of that 15-inch touchscreen. You won’t find any other buttons, too, except for the steering wheel controls and the glove box opener. The elimination of almost every clutter in the cabin is far from cost cutting, though.
Remember that Tesla also is known for its Autopilot self-driving technology. YouTube is also full of idiots abusing and exploiting the system too much, but if not taken way beyond its limits, Tesla’s Autopilot is actually very handy, smart, and functional in the real world. Since Tesla’s goal is to push the boundaries of self-driving cars further, why would you need a speedometer right in front of you, and since electric cars don’t even need a rev counter due to having an electric motor, the need for a driver-centered speedometer becomes even less important. I still prefer having my own instrument dials, though.
The interior is still typical Tesla. Futuristic, and made of high quality materials, albeit not as premium as the luxury-oriented Model S and X. It’s highly functional, too, as there are plenty of cubby space and storage, thanks to the fact that there’s no need for a driveshaft, gearbox, and an internal combustion engine, freeing up plenty of space for people, just like in the Model S and Model X. Buyers can opt for a premium pack, where US$5,000 adds things like a 12-way power adjustable seat, open pore wood panelling, a glass roof, which is actually one giant piece of glass that extends from the front windshield all the way to the trunk (pretty cool), and a high-end sound system.
Electricity Is (One Of) The Future Means Of Propulsion
Now, why is the launch of the Model 3 very important? Well, if there’s one route the world is going to, its the push for electrified vehicles. Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal has sped up the company’s efforts into developing electric or electrified vehicles, cleaning up the mess they made, and forever has tarnished the image of diesels around the world. Volvo has declared that by 2019, all their cars will be electrified. Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi all have increased efforts in their electric vehicles development, with BMW even developing their BMW i sub-brand just for that purpose. With stringent emission standards, and a Paris Agreement meant to help reduce the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigate the effects of man-made climate change, the world is currently in a shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. Electricity is the future, but there’s another means of propulsion that’s also challenging it, and that’s hydrogen. Unlike electricity, though, hydrogen hasn’t received much media attention, and isn’t fully pushed by manufacturers as much as electricity. Toyota and Honda for now are the only major players in the hydrogen field, with their Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity.
Electric vs. Electrified
For now, there are two types of cars to talk about. Electrified means cars that still have an internal combustion engine, but are assisted by an electric motor. These can be mild-hybrids (like the Honda CR-Z, and the all-new Audi A8) wherein the car is assisted by an electric motor, but can’t drive on electric alone, full hybrids (like the Toyota Prius, Lexus LS 600h) which can run purely on electricity for a short range, and plug-in hybrids (like the Toyota Prius PHEV, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, BMW 330e iPerformance), wherein the electric motors and batteries are big enough for them to be charged in a socket or a fast charger, letting the car run on electricity for a longer distance, while the engine either acts as a generator only to charge the batteries, or also helps in driving the car as well. Electric means it is powered purely by electricity. The Tesla Model 3 is a purely electric car that puts all of Tesla’s innovation and technology learnings in the past 14 years into a car that’s more accessible to everyone.
The Zero Emissions Dream. The Tesla Solar Roof and Powerwall
The electric car is just part of Elon Musk’s dream. To make an electric car completely have a low to zero carbon footprint, it has to be made in a zero-emissions manner from raw materials extraction, to production, charing it, and all the way to recycling the car. This is where his Solar Roof and Powerwall comes in. Though there are now existing Tesla Superchargers all around the world, which are also powered by renewables, the Solar Roof and Powerwall are one of the seals to the zero-emissions grid. The Solar Roof are unlike your conventional solar panels. These are tiles that are more durable than your roof tiles, yet look inconspicuously like an attractive roof tile, but underneath them are solar cells. They also cost less, too. Along with the Tesla Powerwall, which acts as your house’s batter and/or a way to charge your Tesla, your house now relies less on the mainline electricity grid. Tesla is not just creating an electric car, it is creating an entire living ecosystem for electric vehicle owners.
Creating an electric car that has the range of a typical gasoline powered car is one thing, but being able to create an entire electric car ecosystem that seals that zero-emissions grid is another. Because Tesla’s Model S was so successful, it was also eating sales from established luxury competitors such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. These brands had no electric cars when the Model S was released, and this lead to them to speed up their research and development efforts in their electric cars. Combined with the fact that global emission regulations are getting stricter by the minute, Tesla was already one step ahead from the beginning, and till this day, we’ve yet to see a full-size electric luxury sedan competitor from these brands to compete with the Tesla Model S. Chevrolet, however, was one step ahead of Tesla in releasing a long-range, affordable electric car called the Chevrolet Bolt. It is priced similarly to the Tesla Model 3, but so far, despite the Model 3 being slightly late, it seems more people were still willing to wait for the Model 3’s release.
Car companies around the world have been heavily investing in electric vehicles, and it is Elon Musk that motivated these companies to follow suit. How a start up tech company in 2003 was able to achieve this feat is still something to be in awe about, because unlike other established car manufacturers, Tesla was founded in order to build electric cars from day one, in an age where technology has become integral in our daily lives. These established brands, meanwhile, were founded during the days when crude oil was rising in popularity. Like what I said in the beginning, Tesla seems to be a tech company first rather than a car company, but isn’t that why Tesla is also highly successful? In a world of iPhones, Androids, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Macs, Windows, and all other tech completely filling up our daily lives, Tesla is not just attracting car enthusiasts, but it’s also attracting tech geeks, too, and that’s essentially being able to hit two birds in one stone. As a human race, we advance forward and adapt to changing ecosystems as to how we live, and Tesla is one of the companies at the forefront of it.