The problem electric cars have long had, frankly, is that they’re fucking ugly. Range anxiety has definitely been a real hang up, as is the needed infrastructure to charge electric cars to ease that anxiety, but lackluster design has kept people from emotionally connecting to electric cars. I mean, gtfoh with that Nissan Leaf. The Tesla 3 has arrived to break that mold, and through attractive design may take the electric car mainstream.
The people who are progressive enough to want an electric car many times are the same people who appreciate great design. Apple has taught us that design matters in easing the adoption of a new technology and our favorite techno-utopian Elon Musk has seemed to learned that lesson better than the existing car manufacturers. He made Teslas great cars on their own merits. From design to performance, there didn’t seem to be any compromise in quality. That lack of compromise also made them expensive, and out of the reach of many people who wanted to be driving electric cars.
The new Tesla, unveiled by Musk last night, slaps a $35,000 price tag on a vehicle that looks much more expensive. It then packs the one-two punch of the power to go 0-60 in less than six seconds and the stamina to travel 215 miles on a single charge. More importantly, it doesn’t look all clunky or awkward like past electric cars that seemed to be designed by well-meaning engineers and not great car designers. The Tesla 3 has a sexy, but subdued silhouette, that gives an air of sportiness and a proportionality that makes you think everything is in the right place. It’s the equivalent of going from those crappy MP3 players of the early aughts to the iPod.
If the electric car is to ever arrive, this is it. Early signs say that it has, with 115,000 pre-orders taken within the first 90 minutes for a vehicle that won’t be on roads until late 2017. For context, that doubles the Tesla Model S sales for all of 2015.
But why should design matter so much to a car? Cars, like it or not, still offer a glimpse into the personality of the driver. We don’t want to feel we attach such personal value to craven commercialism, but we do. It’s hard not to when you’re dropping this much coin on a purchase.
This is where honesty is important from the person writing to you. As one co-worker aptly reminded me as he heard me insult the Nissan Leaf, I drive a 2010 Toyota Prius. And if I look deep into myself for the reasons why I bought this car, I can see my values reflected in that buying decision. I wanted something environmentally friendly, but, honestly, that wasn’t the main concern. There was an economic realism to my purchase, because I wanted to spend less on gas when it was around $4/gallon. I calculated my savings over my previous car. I bought my car used because I could get it for a significant markdown, but still in great condition because of the huge number of used Priuses coming off of their three-year leases of the time. I still wanted the Prius, because of the hybrids, even though many of them aren’t the greatest thing to look at, there was still a cache (Larry David drives one!), and still a better design sense than Honda or Chevy’s forays into hybrids. So design still mattered to me, but not more than economics. I wasn’t going to pay $70K to look good AND save on gas.
My purchase was a mix of pragmatism and image, but not so concerned with what I drive that I’d drop huge money on a car. My purchase said that I believe my car should be a okay-looking, cost-effective appliance. It’s how I approach a lot of my life. But for the people who want a little more flash, a little more luxury, but still have the environment and gas prices on their mind, the Tesla 3 finally offers them that at a price they can reach.