Surprise! Tesla's Model 3 now has a mid-range battery option

Tesla Model 3

Dual ECUs control the steering

This week Tesla announces the release of a new lower-cost, mid-range version of its Model 3 sedan. In response, the company promised an upcoming model with a standard battery pack that will remain faithful to the initial price promise.

The current Tesla vehicle line (Roadster, Model S, Model X) ranges in price from $68,000 - $138,800 before tax incentives for electric cars.

"Costs $35k after federal & state tax rebates in California, but true cost of ownership is closer to $31k after gas savings", tweeted Musk.

Tesla, meanwhile, also has eliminated the option for buyers to pay an extra $3,000 for a "full self-driving" feature in their cars that isn't yet ready, but which has been available for order for the past two years.

The company has long promised the Model 3 would be its vehicle for the masses, but it originally focused on building premium versions of the auto while it struggled to ramp up factory production.

The electric-car maker has started taking orders for a mid-range battery Model 3 that goes about 260 miles between charges for $45,000.

Musk, 47, first unveiled the Model 3 to great fanfare in March 2016, pledging that it would start at $35,000 before incentives. It's not clear if this timetable for the debut of the midrange model was originally planned by Tesla, or if the timing was pushed up due to other factors such as gaining orders ahead of the halving of the $7,500 federal tax credit later this year. However, Tesla is discontinuing that model, so the next step is the Long Range variant with all-wheel drive, which goes for $54,000 and adds an additional 50 miles of range. For example, NY offers a further $2,000 incentive, dropping the price down to $35,500. And while that may not be a dealbreaker in itself, it's drifting farther away, once again, from the Model 3's original promise.

Hitting that price target is important, because the federal tax incentives - worth up to $US7,500 per vehicle - are due to start dwindling in January.

The cheaper "standard-range" Model 3 is still absent from the new, simplified ordering page, and the company has made no secret of the fact that it can not afford to lose money selling the cheaper cars, no matter the demand.

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