Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

May 23

China’s BYD Qin PHEV Sells 50,000th Unit As Quickly As Did The Chevy Volt

 

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The Chinese electrified car manufacturer that counts Warren Buffet as a key investor, and which led Tesla in sales last year, delivered its 50,000th Qin plug-in hybrid as quickly as it took the Chevy Volt.

This was accomplished last month for the PHEV that was launched a couple years after the Volt, but whose first two-and-a-half years’ of global sales have about matched those of General Motors’ Chevrolet and Holden Volt, and Volt-based Opel/Vauxhall Ampera.

The Qin is rated in its home market to have a Volt-competitive 43 miles electric range, and was the first of the Chinese automaker’s “super-electric” vehicles. While the range estimate may be optimistic for its 13-kWh battery if scrutinized under U.S. regulatory tests, the car boasts also a 0-60 time of less than 5.9 seconds. According to the Chinese test cycle, the Qin gets “147 mpg” or 1.6 liters per 100 kilometer.

If you’ve not yet heard of it, that could be because BYD cars are not sold to consumers in the U.S., though without our market’s help, last year BYD sold almost 62,000 vehicles compared to Tesla’s almost 51,000, meaning it was the world’s largest electrified vehicle seller.

SEE ALSO: GM Sells Its 100,000th Volt in October

Launched in Costa Rica in November 2013, the Qin hit the ground running with sales primarily in the Chinese market where it was released a month later.

China’s plug-in market was itself lagging at that time, but as a whole China has seen four-times growth year over year for the last two years straight. The Qin is today still mainly sold in Latin America and China, and its 50,000th global sale occurred in April, after its 29th month on the market.

 BYD North America.

BYD North America.

The Volt was launched Dec. 2010 in the U.S., sold its 50,000th in the U.S. 34 months later in Oct. 2013, and it’s estimated that globally its 50,000th came around the 29th or 30th month.

Though BYDs are not sold in the U.S., the company did open a Los Angeles based North American headquarters in 2011.

BYD was given fame early on when Warren Buffett bought a 10-percent share in it the decade prior, but in 2011, the company laid off thousands of employees and faced numerous “potholes” in its auto and mobile phone business.

It has and continues to face hurdles, but is making progress with an eye toward entering the U.S. market in full. Presently in the U.S. it is proffering electric buses, and has certified its E6 all-electric SUV it says get 186 mile on a charge but which the EPA says is good for 127. A handful of these have gone to fleet and taxi use.

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Last June we reported the Qin’s 25,000th sale, which took 19 months, so doubling that just 10 months later, the Qin is mirroring the Chinese plug-in market and accelerating,

In the cumulative total race, other plug-ins – most of them launched earlier – actually have topped 100,000 sales, meaning the Qin is a bit of a second-tier plug-in on that score.

Vehicles that have surpassed 100,000 include the Nissan Leaf (almost 220,000), Tesla Model S (about 120,000), Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (102,00), and the aforementioned Volt family (over 110,000). The Toyota Prius PHV has sold more than 75,000 but its sales are slowed until the new 2017 Prius Prime is released.

Other plug-ins tagging along with the Qin include the Renault Zoe with 47,083 sold, and the BMW i3, with 47,438.

Both these will likely be at 50,000 by next month, and the i3 is expected to get a boost when a revised model with longer range comes along this summer.

There was a rumor as recently as March the BYD Qin could come to the U.S., but no explicit plans have been announced by the company which has otherwise said it would like to do it.

If such a car were be sold here, it would be welcomed by many enthusiasts who do know of it, such as those at CleanTechnica, although what its EPA range would be is uncertain.

Even if its “43” miles is overestimated, it likely would be respectable under the U.S. cycle, beating other plug-in hybrids like the 27-mile Hyundai/Kia PHEV sedans, and 19-mile Ford Fusion Energi.

Power also would be superior from its 1.5-liter twin-turbocharged direct-injected four plus 110 kilowatt (148 horsepower) electric motor all routed through a dual clutch transmission.

To make the point of how quick it is, the automaker has prepped it for a professional rally race, and even staged drag races with nine well-known performance oriented cars. While it was not up to embarrassing the likes of a Nissan GT-R, it held its own among another fairly quick vehicles.

Not shy therefore, it’s being viewed as probably a matter of time before BYD enters the U.S. consumer market.

In an interview with Autoblog, BYD America Vice President Michael Austin cited holdbacks.

“Right now, we really don’t have parts and distribution or consumer warranty service, and we don’t have a dealer network,” said Austin. “It’s easier to service fleets.”

The company is working toward it however, and Austin said if the Qin does make it here here, he thought it would indeed do well.

“All I can say is that we’re absolutely committed to bringing our fantastic design to the U.S.,” said Austin, noting the Qin’s 0-to-60 time is in “about 5″ seconds. “If I brought that model to the U.S., it’d be a game-changer.”

Thanks to Mario R. Duran for help with data.

 

May 20

Autonomous Chevy Bolts Seen Testing in San Francisco

 

By Jon LeSage
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Test versions of the Chevy Bolt strapped with autonomous vehicle sensors have been spotted driving on the streets of San Francisco.

Chevrolet hasn’t confirmed these are self-driving cars being tested, but they appear similar to several other autonomous cars that have been tested on roads in California and a few other states. Photos are not being displayed here because they are copyrighted, but two Bolts have been viewed driving with what appears to be autonomous driving sensors strapped to their roofs.

One Bolt has white exterior paint and a passenger behind the wheel. The second test model is covered in camouflage paint and appears to not have a driver behind the wheel.

Both models have unfinished headlights, but appear to be the same as the Bolts displayed since last year at auto shows. The Chevy Bolt is scheduled to start rolling off production lines in October 2016.

SEE ALSO: GM Confirms Chevy Bolt Availability By Late 2016

The Bolt will likely be loaded with General Motors’ connected car options such as OnStar services, SiriusXM, and 4G LTE wireless service. The Bolt has not been officially affiliated with any of GM’s autonomous driving systems being tested.

It’s more likely to be affiliated with the partnership between GM and ridesharing firm Lyft. Earlier this year, GM bought a 9 percent stake in Lyft Inc. for $500 million. The two companies are working to develop a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolt electric vehicles, according to GM.

Autoblog

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

May 19

What GM is learning from its Maven carsharing service

 

By Jon LeSage

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General Motors’ new carsharing service Maven is stepping forward with vehicles being rented in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Chicago.

Ann Arbor has more than 1,300 approved users and GM quietly launched a few weeks ago in Chicago. Maven will be rolled out to additional major U.S. metro areas this year as GM reaches out to consumers who may not own a car.

In Ann Arbor, about 20-30 percent of those who’ve downloaded the Maven smartphone app are now considered active users. That means they’ve used Maven to rent a vehicle more than once, according to GM. The audience and end use has been diverse, with customers going beyond millennials and college students using Maven cars to go to work, take weekend trips, or shop at retail stores like IKEA.

Shannon Serenko, 32, has become a regular Maven customer, and doesn’t own a car. Maven rents vehicles in her building’s parking garage, which she’s used about a half dozen times including two overnight trips. Maven has been cost effective for her, taking away expenses such as car insurance and parking.

Serenko also has used a key carsharing competitor, Zipcar. She liked Maven’s low prices and has found the mobile app to reserve a car easy to use. Her favorite Maven fleet vehicle is a Chevrolet Volt, which she has nicknamed Charlie. Serenko likes to plug in her phone and listen to Pandora while she’s driving.

“The Volt is cheapest car you can rent at six bucks an hour, and it’s a sweet car,” she said.

SEE ALSO: GM Launches ‘Maven’ Car-Sharing Service

Maven started with 13 vehicles in Ann Arbor, which has grown to 30 vehicles available including the Chevrolet Spark, Malibu, Volt, and Tahoe. It has several locations in Ann Arbor, including near the University of Michigan campus and downtown. Users return cars to the same parking spot where they picked them up.

Insurance and gasoline up to 180 miles a day are included in the rental. It also comes with the ability to sync phones for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; OnStar services, SiriusXM, and 4G LTE wireless service. If gasoline falls below a quarter of a tank while in use, customers are asked to use their credit card to refuel.

Prices in Ann Arbor range from $6 an hour for the Spark and Volt, to $12 an hour for the Tahoe; and $42 per day for the Spark and Volt, to $84 a day for the Tahoe. Prices are slightly higher in Chicago where 26 vehicles are available so far.

GM is working on rolling out Maven+, a carsharing program for residential communities. Approved participants in Maven+ will have 24/7 access to a variety of vehicles, conveniently parked in the related residential community parking garages, GM says.

The automaker sees Maven as critical for its mobility strategy as it competes with Uber, Lyft, and carsharing companies like Zipcar and Daimler’s Car2Go. Earlier this year, GM bought a 9 percent stake in ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. for $500 million. The two companies are working to develop a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles.

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra last week said she believes GM can “get rid of a lot of customer pain points with sharing.” Speaking last week at a women’s technology conference in Detroit, Barra said carsharing can help eliminate the headaches of car ownership in cities where congestion and parking costs are challenging.

“If you can eliminate pain points and how they get from Point A to Point B, you’re going to be really serving the customer,” Barra said. “And that’s why General Motors is working so hard, that however people get from Point A to Point B, that we’re going to be a part of it and really lead it all the way to autonomous (driving).”

The Detroit News

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

May 18

Bob Lutz critiques Tesla Motors

 

Is Bob Lutz a “dinosaur” as critics have said, or do his insights have merit?

By Jon LeSage
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Former GM vice chair and Chevrolet Volt protagonist Bob Lutz had more statements to make about the future of Tesla Motors and its products to CBS MoneyWatch.

“I’m certainly a great fan of the Model S. The Model X isn’t working too well because it doesn’t have enough roof structure, so those doors are never going to work. The Model 3 — we’ll see what happens with that. I think it’s going to be delayed again,” Lutz said.

“I would say be prepared for far more delays than you have bought into, and secondly, be prepared to pay more than what you thought you were going to pay,” he said in the interview.

Lutz, who also championed the Via Motors plug-in hybrid pickup conversion company, has been controversial for fans of Tesla’s electric cars. Now age 84, Lutz has led product development and marketing at major carmakers including GM, Chrysler, BMW, and Ford, and his comments do gain media attention.

A virtually equal opportunity offender, Lutz has also said his style since days at GM ran counter to polished upset-no-one policies of that carmaker’s public relations team. He has on other days called the pending 2017 Chevy Bolt EV a compliance car, and said GM is subsidizing the effort by jacking up the prices of its trucks and SUVs.

As for Tesla Motors, Lutz said it is quite vulnerable to this reality of manufacturing and selling cars. Other major automakers – including and beyond GM – are rolling out new plug-in electric vehicles at a “deliberate loss” to gain market share and credibility. Lutz said advantages other major automakers have over Tesla is these losses are offset by traditional cars out on the market, something Tesla can’t do as it only sells all-electric vehicles.

“Tesla has to live off the electrics,” Lutz said. “That’s going to be very tough when everybody else is selling them at a loss.”

Tesla’s business model just doesn’t work. He says that “they’re losing a ton of money” and “running out of cash.”

SEE ALSO: Bob Lutz Foresees ‘Doom’ for Tesla, Suggests PHEV and Franchised Dealerships

The biggest challenge, according to Lutz, is the cost of the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S.

“The problem today is that electric cars – because of the battery – cost more to make,” Lutz said.

Lutz has had good things to say about Tesla CEO Elon Musk. In the 2011 documentary, “Revenge of the Electric Car,” Lutz and Musk walked the floors together at the Detroit Auto Show, stopping to check out the Nissan Leaf. Lutz has also credited Tesla’s Roadster with goading him into pushing GM to build the Volt.

Lutz’s assessment of Tesla’s charismatic leader to CBS MoneyWatch also gave credit, while poking holes in Musk’s image at the same time.

“You know, Elon Musk is a wonderful guy. He’s a visionary. He’s personally charming. He’s the eternal optimist,” said Lutz. “[However,] he does make a lot of claims and a lot of statements that as time goes by prove to be not to be quite accurate. Every time somebody tries to focus in on the here and now, he dangles another grand vision in front of them.”

Inside EVs

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

 

May 17

2016 Cadillac ELR production was permanently cancelled in February

 

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If you’re a car collector wanting a pristine first-generation niche of a plug-in vehicle, head to your Cadillac dealer as ELR production was permanently stopped in February.

The automaker quietly ceased making new ELRs after Cadillac brand president Johan de Nysschen told journalists in late January that Cadillac would not continue to invest in the luxury extended-range electric coupe.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Cadillac ELR Review – Video

“I plan to continue admiring it as one of the most beautiful cars on four wheels” de Nysschen told reporters during a media drive for Cadillac’s large CT6 large sedan in Los Angeles. “But we don’t plan further investment” [in the ELR].

Reports emanating from this statement in early February interpreted it to mean the just-updated 2016 ELR would stay in production for some undetermined time longer before eventually being phased out.

In fact, it was ended that same month.

de Nyscchen's first statement that the ELR would not see a second generation came April 2015.

2014 ELR. The handwriting had been on the wall for some time. de Nyscchen’s first statement that the ELR would not see a second generation came April 2015.

In an interview on Friday, Cadillac Product Communications Manager David Caldwell offered a statement.

“Cadillac ELR production recently concluded. A very small quantity of ELR units remain available at dealers today,” said Caldwell. “The beautifully designed electrified coupe marked an important step in Cadillac’s ongoing expansion. Cadillac remains committed to delivering new technology, including advanced propulsion. Cadillac will soon launch a new Plug-In Hybrid edition of the remarkable new CT6 sedan.

The CT6 PHEV is a faster, larger vehicle, with similar electric range in the mid-30s, and will be imported from China.

It too is projected to sell in limited quantities, though it is expected to be better received than has been the ELR.

Last month the approximately $65,000 ELR sold 95 units, and 357 have been reported this year. Its sales compare favorably with other more-expensive niche cars like the BMW i8 – 305 sold this year, and Mercedes S550 PHEV – 96 sales for 2016, and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid – 108 sales this year. During all of 2015, Cadillac sold 1,024 ELRs in the U.S.

However as a General Motors product based on the Chevy Volt’s powertrain and chassis, the ELR launched for the 2014 model year has not fared as well as these other vehicles in the court of public opinion.

Consumers and media have more often drawn comparisons between the ELR and the Tesla Model S – observing comparable pricing for a larger vehicle with better performance, and all electric drive. Also the Volt has been compared as a vehicle offering similar efficiency and EV range, if less luxury, and for half the price.

SEE ALSO: How GM Amped Up the 2016 Cadillac ELR

The 2016 Volt further was fully redesigned with 53-miles EV range and better fuel efficiency in hybrid mode while the upscale ELR makes do with a tweaked version of the first-generation Volt’s powertrain.

Aside from these factors, Michigan-based automotive analyst Alan Baum said he thinks the ELR was axed in part because of the complexity of ELR production at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

The more profitable and much-higher volume Malibu, Impala, Volt, and CT6 are also produced there, and the ELR adds very little value, he said.

Updated 2016 ELR.

Updated 2016 ELR.

Ironically, the ELR had received performance upgrades for 2016, and a $10,000 lower price from its introduction. Caldwell said he was not entirely sure on the decision process that led to this timing of events. He did observe engineers had plans in the works to update the ELR, so those were done.

SEE ALSO: Cadillac Announces Quicker 2016 ELR Priced $10,000 Cheaper

Meanwhile, it is onward and upward for Cadillac. de Nysschen has been tasked with revitalizing the brand, and that, said Baum, is what he is in process of doing.

“In the face of a shortage of products relative to his competition, he is trying to increase the cache and price of the products he does have and he has had success in that regard,” said Baum. “The ELR doesn’t do that and he can’t sell it at a price that builds brand value, and thus the product does not fit into the larger scheme of Cadillac.”

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.

Hat tip bro1999.

 

May 16

7 mainstream electrified cars worth waiting for

 

And then again, you could skip the wait and get a Volt.

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The list of pending U.S. market alternative energy cars is considerable, technologically diverse, but a few relatively affordable standouts are worth noting.

To date, the green car market includes over three dozen hybrids, about a dozen each of plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles – some not nationally available – but our list consists of the most cutting edge 50-state plug-in cars.

Most are to start at less than $40,000, though a couple may go some ways above that. True enough, this is not exactly entry level when the new car transactions today averaging cars priced in the teens as well as those in the six figures works out to low 30s. However, plug-in subsidies will potentially be available to whittle down net costs.

Following are seven green cars that could be worth waiting for.

Hyundai Ioniq

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Due later this year, the Ioniq gets an asterisk next to its name because aside from being offered in plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and battery electric (EV) versions, it is due first as a conventional hybrid.

The model had been anticipated for a couple years and debuted last year in Korea, and this year for the U.S. in New York. It promises to set new benchmarks and Hyundai has said it wants to be in the global top 2 by 2020 for green car sales.

The hybrid version of course does not plug in, but does threaten to edge out the new fourth-generation 2016 Prius’ spec sheet in several important criteria, including mpg which – prior to EPA certification – Hyundai says may even be north of 56 mpg in the most-efficient trim.

Hyundai’s plug-in hybrid Ioniq to be released early 2017 will be based on the same 1.6-liter gas engine plus single motor powertrain in the regular hybrid, with addition of an 8.9-kWh lithium-polymer battery good for between 25 and 30 miles EV range, according to Hyundai.

The battery electric Ioniq to launch soon after the hybrid this year will in turn delete the entire engine, and replace it with an all-electric powertrain with modest 110-mile EV range. It is expected the pricing for these Ioniq variants will make them competitive, though more on that will be disclosed closer to launch.

Toyota Prius Prime

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Based on the new Prius liftback, the Prime is positioned as a plug-in hybrid variant atop the range.

The 1.8-liter hybrid vehicle doubles the traction battery capacity of the 2012-2015 Prius PHV to 8.8 kWh, and is projected to be rated for 22 miles EV range.

Toyota says this is enough range to let half of all commuters drive gas free. It’s also 13 miles less than the 2011 Chevy Volt, but then Toyota does have that brand recognition working it its favor and offers a complete package …

Merged into total Prime offering is a powertrain that when not running on electrons should get fuel economy in line with the 52 mpg Prius liftback hybrid from which it was taken.

SEE ALSO: Five Ways Toyota Updated Its 2017 Prius ‘Prime’ Plug-in Hybrid

Riding on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, the 60-percent stiffer chassis promises respectable cornering prowess and is adorned with a body with ultra low coefficient of drag, and lots of amenities.

The former plug-in Prius was sold just in 15 states, and 50-state availability when released this fall signals greater confidence by Toyota in its new Prius Prime.

Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid

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Delayed a few times to the U.S. for the past three years, the latest projection is Mitsubishi’s plug-in hybrid that has led sales charts in Europe will be on sale later this year.

As a four-wheel-drive true sport utility vehicle, the Outlander threatens to open a segment until now occupied by relative elites from Volvo, Porsche and BMW.

Capable of running gas free for a significant, but to be disclosed EPA-rated range from its 12-kWh battery, the vehicle utilizes a twin motor 4-wheel drive and “Super-All Wheel Control” (“S-AWC”) system.

SEE ALSO: Nissan To Buy Controlling Share in Mitsubishi Motors

In the UK, it’s been advertised under that country’s rating system with EV range as high as 32.5 miles, while emitting as little as 44 grams per kilometer of CO2 and returning 148 mpg combined.

Mitsubishi is however being investigated in Japan for misreporting Japan-market mini-cars’ mpg. U.S. authorities have also made inquiries, but to date no misreporting is known on U.S. cars, let alone the Outlander PHEV.

The company does face challenges its president says has its survival in question, so how things play out remain to be seen.

Chevrolet Bolt

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An electric vehicle that will push the envelop the farthest this year in miles range for the dollar is the all-new 2017 Chevy Bolt.

Built in response to Tesla’s expected Model 3, GM doubled down on its engineering and production resources to show the production Bolt early this year with an anticipated starting price of $37,500 and range estimated north of 200 prior to EPA certification.

SEE ALSO: Five Advantages The Chevy Bolt Has Over The Tesla Model 3

Built on a skateboard type chassis which GM originated and which was used first by Tesla in its Model S, the Bolt uses it to free up interior volume atop the flat floor with 60-kWh battery inside.

Zero to sixty mph is supposed to take less than 7 seconds making for a peppy ride 3 seconds quicker than a Prius, through slower than the sub-6-second Model 3 projected by Tesla for late 2017.

Styled like a hatchback, it is not as sleek as the Model 3 sedan either, though with 10.2-inch touchscreen, a number of advanced features, and with GM experimenting with semi-autonomous examples, it is not low tech.

Look for EPA numbers within a couple months or so, and ordering to open up nationwide later this year. Production begins before the end of the year, GM says.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

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And now, from the company that brought the world the minivan in the mid 80s is the first plug-in hybrid minivan.

In introducing what is also its only hybrid model at the moment, Fiat-Chrysler also opened a segment that was Toyota and Honda’s game to lose – and one advocates may hope will yet lure other automakers in besides.

At this stage, the Pacifica Hybrid – renamed from the Town & Country and deliberately called “Hybrid” to not confuse people about plugging in – is in a class of one.

It utilizes a 16-kWh battery under the rear seats for up to an estimated 30 miles EV range and 80 MPGe.

When not running in EV mode, its V6 Pentastar engine based hybrid powertrain may provide class-leading mpg as well.

Next-Generation Nissan Leaf

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The mystery car, and one that will garner instant headlines as soon as it breaks cover is the next-generation Nissan Leaf which is expected to get a full redeisgn and range competitive with the Chevy Bolt.

What it will look like has people guessing, but it’s long been rumored that more-mainstream styling will come in to steer the design away from the frog-eyed super-eco-car look of 2011-present.

Not a rumor is Chief designer Shiro Nakamura said in Beijing it will look very much like the IDS concept shown.

SEE ALSO: What Do We Know About the 2017 Nissan Leaf?

Nakamura told journalist Bertel Schmitt of the Daily Kanban he is aware that the frumpy present design doesn’t work any longer. While not spelling out what to exactly expect, Nakamura said many concepts shown at car shows are “just concepts, but occasionally there are some that are are very close to reality.”

Whether Nissan rolls it out for 2017 is not looking likely, and Michigan-based analyst Alan Baum projects early 2018 is when we’ll have access to it.

In its favor is Nissan has long been bullish on EVs, it is likely to support and market it more effectively than Chevrolet does the Bolt, and it will cater to an existing owner base of more than 200,000 worldwide who have purchased the first-generation Leaf.

Specs like 0-60, actual range, are anyone’s guess but a conservative bet would be it will stay within realm of what came before while improving everything.

Tesla Model 3

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The Model 3 is last on the list not because it is least, but because its place on the list goes without saying.

After all, this list is about cars that are “worth waiting for,” and with around 400,000 paid reservations by Tesla intenders, this qualification is a given.

To be priced from $35,000 – plus potential delivery fee – the EV will deliver 215 miles range or more from a battery slightly smaller than the Chevy Bolt’s, and upper trim levels with larger batteries stand to push well beyond.

All-wheel-drive, semi-autonomous autopilot, and access to Tesla’s growing Supercharger network are also perks for this vehicle which has attracted unprecedented interest.

Pre-production prototypes this year reportedly had production-level powertrains, but more development work is needed as Tesla last week announced it was increasing plans to produce more cars by far than it ever has.

Last year Tesla sold close to 52,000 vehicles worldwide consisting mostly of Model S with a few Model X deliveries as well.

After the flood of Model 3 orders, it is now saying by 2018 its three models –S, X, 3 – are to account for half a million vehicles produced that year as the company shoots for as many as 1 million by 2020.

If that feat is accomplished, that could mean nearly 20-times the volume of just five years prior, and this is quite stretch goal.

Whatever happens, clear at this stage is the Model 3 has amplified consumer interest and sends a signal that people want what it is offering.

The car represents a cause and a movement as much as it is a product, and to say eyes will be on how things go is the understatement of the year.

This article appears also at HybridCars.com.