Tesla’s Model 3 revs up the electric vehicle revolution
By Flannery Winchester
Here’s a puzzler for you: What’s an environmentalist to do when they want society to get off fossil fuels, but they still have to pump gas into their car every week? Unfortunately, for many of us, public transit isn’t well developed in our cities, biking is unsafe, or we have to travel distances that make walking impossible. And for years, electric cars didn’t have the range needed to make them practical, or they were too expensive to be accessible. So we’ve been stuck with gas-guzzling cars and a hefty dose of cognitive dissonance.
Well, now there’s an answer: Tesla’s new Model 3.
Pay less, go farther
Tesla’s original Roadster model was like the Batmobile of electric cars: super cool to think about, but with a six-figure price tag, it wasn’t a realistic option for most people. But the new Model 3, which CEO Elon Musk announced in March, starts at just $35,000. That makes Tesla available to huge numbers of new customers — and that price is even before you claim any federal tax credit for electric vehicles.
Not only is the price competitive, but the Model 3 can also travel farther than any electric car in that price range. On one charge, a Nissan Leaf can go 73 miles; the Ford Focus Electric goes 76 miles; the BMW i3 goes 81 miles; the Toyota RAV4 EV makes it to 103 miles. But the Tesla Model 3, at minimum, will travel a whopping 215 miles on a single charge.
Faster charging, more freedom
Charging options are better than ever, too. The simplest and most accessible option is charging at home overnight, just like you do your phone. But for road trips, Tesla has created and installed thousands of charging stations called “superchargers” that can give you 170 miles of range in just 30 minutes. These supercharging stations are strategically placed along highways between major cities and in city centers, and they’re complemented by “destination chargers” at places like restaurants, hotels and more, so you’re never far from a charging option.
Just look at the map: There are 3,708 superchargers across the country, and about the same number of destination chargers. By the end of 2017, Musk says, they’ll double the number of supercharging stations and quadruple the number of destination chargers.
Giving the people what they want
In the first 24 hours after Tesla announced the Model 3, they received 115,000 preorders. In the following week, that rose to 325,000. Now, just over a month after the announcement, it’s nearly at 400,000. For a little perspective, that’s nearly the amount of Hondas sold so far this year.
As Musk said in his announcement, “It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport. This is really important for the future of the world.” And apparently, the marketplace couldn’t agree more. If you’re ready to join in, place an order for your car with a $1,000 reservation fee. If you’re a business owner, contact Tesla to get up to two destination charging stations installed at your business for free.
Helping shift the market
This past fall, we hit a global milestone of one million electric vehicles sold worldwide, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation. That’s huge, since we got there in only about six years. But right now, the transportation sector still represents about 14% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and a substantial 26% of America’s emissions. With a global fleet of cars expected to reach 2 billion by 2035, it’s clear that electric cars are only just starting to make a dent in those numbers and overall emissions.
Over the next few years, we should see that dent increase — big time. Plummeting battery costs and innovation like Tesla’s should help EV sales continue to grow quickly. If they maintain last year’s growth rate of 60 percent, as Bloomberg explores in their recent piece “Here’s How Electric Cars Will Cause the Next Oil Crisis,” then EVs could “displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023.” Stanford University’s Tony Seba even predicts that internal combustion engine cars will not be on sale by 2025 anywhere in the world.
This shift is likely to occur despite low gas prices. In years past, low gas prices have led to a dip in gas-electric hybrid car sales, but electric car sales for several brands continued to rise. As the Tech Times reported earlier this year, drivers are influenced by other factors than just gas prices, such as better charging infrastructure and the recent Paris Agreement. And no matter the price of gas, how would it feel to skip the pump altogether? Priceless.
While some of these ideas about the shifting market are just educated guesses, much of it is already happening in Norway. Norway has the highest percentage of EVs, with electric vehicles responsible for more than 22 percent of total new car sales. In fact, in March of this year, one in three new passenger cars registered was a plug-in electric car. They’ve incentivized drivers to adopt EVs through a mixture of tax exemptions, free parking, access to public bus lanes, and an extensive network of charging stations. We could replicate their success by supporting EVs with public policies to address EV cost and support extensive charging infrastructure, according to the Washington Post. But we may not even have to wait for government policies — with the Model 3, Tesla is starting to address cost and charging accessibility on its own.
EVs and a price on carbon
In addition to the advances his company is making in the private sector, Musk understands the political playing field surrounding his product. Earlier this year, The Guardian quoted Musk saying bluntly, “The fundamental issue with fossil fuels is that every use comes with a subsidy. Every gasoline car on the road has a subsidy, and the right way to address that is with a carbon tax.”
He’s referring, of course, to the huge government subsidies awarded to fossil fuel companies to make their product more affordable. And Musk knows, as do economists and climate scientists alike, that a carbon tax would flip that on its head. Fossil fuels would be forced to account for their real, incredibly high costs, and consumers would quickly opt for cheaper, greener options.
But even without a price on carbon, Tesla has succeeded at making an electric vehicle available to hundreds of thousands of people in a very practical way. So while we continue to advocate for a Carbon Fee & Dividend, we can start reducing emissions and air pollution today by joining the EV revolution. Let’s buckle up — and plug in.