Tesla Model 3 doesn't have a key – and seven other things we learned

Elon Musk’s new mass market-aimed electric car has no directly visible speedometer, comes in two battery versions and isn’t a bad option for a sleep

Elon Musk revealed Tesla’s Model 3 is unlocked by a smartphone and doesn’t have a traditional key or fob among a host of other details at the delivery event for the first 30 mass-market electric cars over the weekend.

As the Model 3 enters what Musk called “six months of manufacturing hell” as Tesla ramps up production to meet the more than 500,000 pre-orders, one of the most surprising titbits is that there is no traditional key to open and start Tesla’s mass-market electric car hope.

Instead, would-be buyers of the $35,000-plus five-seat electric car will have to unlock the car with their smartphones over Bluetooth. The car will detect the owner’s smartphone – almost all modern smartphones made in the last three years supports Bluetooth – and automatically unlock, ready to start and go.

Should the battery on your phone run flat, which is a very real possibility in the days of increased use for everything from music, cameras and now keys, Tesla has a backup in the form of an NFC key card that is apparently thin enough to store in a wallet.

Press the card against the car’s B-pillar to unlock it and place it between the seats on a special spot to be able to start the car. It’s designed for valet use, but should be good to get into the car and at least charge your phone so you can properly unlock the Model 3 and go.

But the key-less design wasn’t the only thing we learned over the weekend …

1. Two battery versions

tesla model 3
The minimalist interior of the Model 3. Photograph: Reuters

The Model 3 will come in two versions. The $35,000 base model has a battery with a 220-mile range, does 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds and has a top speed of 130mph. It can be “supercharged” to 130 miles of range in 30 minutes and charges at a rate of 30 miles per hour via a 240V, 32A home charger.

The range-extended version, which costs $44,000, will travel up to 310 miles per charge, reaches 60mph in 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. It will reach a charge of 170 miles in 30 minutes attached to a supercharger, and charges at a rate of 37 miles per hour with a 240V, 40A home charger.

The more expensive Model 3 with the longer range is currently being produced, with the cheaper version to be produced at a later date. A high-performance version of the Model 3 will also be available sometime in the middle of next year, according to Musk.

2. There are no instruments, just a 15in touchscreen in the middle

tesla model 3
The 15in touchscreen is the only display in the cabin. Photograph: Reuters

There’s no speedometer, battery gauge or anything else directly in front of the driver. Instead there’s a large, 15in touchscreen in the middle of the dash, which displays a virtual instrument cluster along with mapping, entertainment and cabin controls.

The Model S has a 17in touchscreen in the middle of the dash, but it is in mounted in a portrait orientation compared to the Model 3’s landscape orientation.

3. There’s a luxury pack option

tesla model 3
The tinted glass roof is part of the premium upgrade. Photograph: Reuters

All Model 3s come with navigation, 4G and wifi connectivity, voice controls, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control and two USB ports in the front for keeping that phone-come-key charged.

But Tesla offers a $5,000 “Premium Upgrade Package” that adds upgraded cabin materials such as wood, heated seats, power adjusted seats and steering column, a tinted glass roof, heated and power-folding wing mirrors, LED fog lights, a subwoofer and upgraded audio, plus two more USB ports in the rear.

With four USB ports and a battery the size of a car, the Model 3 could be the biggest backup smartphone charger ever produced.

4. Enhanced Autopilot

tesla model 3
Enhanced Autopilot is the next version of the company’s advanced driving assistance package. Photograph: Reuters

The Model 3 has a comes with a range of sensors to enable the next version of Tesla’s driving assistance system dubbed Enhanced Autopilot. These include one forward-facing radar sensor, seven cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors and new, more powerful Nvidia Drive PX2 processor.

To enable Enhanced Autopilot, owners will have to buy a $5,000 upgrade, enabling traffic speed matching, lane guidance, automatic lane switching and self-parking abilities, including Tesla’s “summon”, which has the car drive out of a parking space or garage to your side by itself.

5. Full self-driving

Tesla is in the process of developing a fully autonomous system for its cars, which uses the equipment from the Enhanced Autopilot system. While the system isn’t ready, and won’t be legal to use in the UK and US until the appropriate legislation is passed, an upgrade to fully autonomous driving will cost just $3,000 on top of the Enhanced Autopilot upgrade.

6. Black as standard

tesla model 3
Pearl white will be one of the colour options available for $1,500 more. Photograph: Reuters

The Model 3 comes in black, but if you want it in metallic silver, blue, a slate grey (midnight silver), white or red, it’ll cost $1,000 more. The car comes with 18in alloys as standard, but 19in sport alloys can be added for $1,500 more.

7. You can sleep in it

tesla model 3
The rear seats fold for more storage space, or for electric car camping. Photograph: Reuters

The rear seats fold down in a traditional 60/40 split, and apparently there’s a subculture of Model S users who camp in the back of their cars. Bloomberg found there’s enough room in the back of the Model 3 for someone 206cm (6ft 9in) tall to sleep flat along the car with the seats folded.


Samuel Gibbs

The GuardianTramp

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