July 16, 2014 2:05 pm

Tesla announces cheaper model, is it time to buy electric?

This June 22, 2012 photo shows a 2013 Tesla Model S outside the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Paul Sakuma

TORONTO – Electric car maker Tesla Motors has confirmed plans for a third-generation car dubbed the Model 3, which will retail for only US$35,000 – half the price of its popular Model S.

Tesla confirmed the news Tuesday, after Auto Express published a report stating the company’s newest model would be priced to compete with BMW’s 3-series models. The car isn’t expected to hit the market until 2017.


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The company turned heads in 2008 with the announcement of the Model S – a fully electric luxury sedan. In June it announced it would give other companies open access to its patents to accelerate the development of electric vehicles.

“If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal,” Musk wrote in a blog on the company’s website.

Electric cars currently make up only a tiny fraction of auto sales. Drivers are concerned about their range, and sales suffer whenever gasoline prices stabilize.

Ford announced last week it would cut the price of its Ford Focus Electric model for 2014, launching at US$35,200 down from $39,200 for the 2013 model.

READ MORE: Electric car maker Tesla opening access to its patents

Lower prices such as these may help more consumers to get into the electric car game – especially as commuters look for alternatives as gas prices rise.

According to the Auto Express report, the new Tesla Model 3 will go more than 200 miles per charge.

Tesla has over 100 “Supercharger” stations scattered across North America and Europe that give Model S drivers a free power source when travelling long distances.

The technology is designed to replenish about half of the battery power within 20 minutes. Tesla recently opened three Supercharger stations in China and plans to set up about 200 more around the world, including Japan, by the end of the year.

Tesla is slated to open its first Canadian supercharger station in Squamish, B.C. this week and plans to install more stations in B.C. in the future. The Tesla website also shows a number of planned supercharger stations in Alberta, and along the Highway 401 corridor in Ontario and Quebec by 2015.

If Tesla does install more superchargers across the country, would it be cheaper to invest in a Tesla vehicle or a competitor like the BMW 3-series?

On average, a car like the BMW 3-series would hold 57 litres of fuel on a full tank. At an average fuel price of CDN$1.34 per litre, a full tank would cost about $76. If you drove an average of 20,000 kilometres per year, gas could cost from $1,400 to $1,800 a year, depending on the specific 3-series model fuel economy and driving conditions.

Drive that car for eight years and you would end up spending more than $11,000 in gas alone. It could even reach the $15,000 amount, and that would still require gas prices to remain at current levels.

Tack that onto the price tag for a basic BMW 3-series model – starting at about $35,990 – and the electric model may sound appealing.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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