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Future Tesla owners wait in line to pre-order ‘affordable’ Model 3

Tesla won’t actually unveil the long-awaited Model 3 until Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. ET and the car isn’t expected to go into production until the end of 2017. Handout/Tesla

Joseph Preece has been waiting nearly 28 hours in line to pre-order a car he’s never even seen.

Preece, along with about 100 others, is camped outside a Vancouver Tesla dealership, taking intermittent breaks from tweeting to nap while he waits to pre-order the Model 3 – the luxury electric car maker’s first affordable offering for the mass market.

At a starting price of US$35,000 – before federal and provincial government incentives – the electric sedan is less than half the cost of Tesla’s previous models. The car is expected to have a range of at least 200 miles (321 kilometres) when fully charged, double what the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 offer.

Tesla won’t actually unveil the long-awaited Model 3 until Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. ET and the car isn’t expected to go into production until the end of 2017.

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But those who have lined up at Tesla dealerships will be able to shell out $1,000 to put their name on a regionalized waitlist for the car.

This begs the question: why would you want to make a down payment on a car you’ve never seen?

Well, as Preece points out, “the deposit is fully refundable,” but he has no doubts that Tesla will impress.

“Tesla has made nothing but amazing vehicles. Even without the fancy bells and whistles I would be happy with just the performance aspect of the vehicle. In my mind if you have $1,000 and you might want to buy a Tesla by late 2017 or 2018 it’s a no-brainer,” Preece told Global News.

“Also, Elon Musk wouldn’t want the ‘E’ in sexy to not be sexy.”

What to expect from the Model 3

As with any highly anticipated product unveiling, there have been a few rumours about the Model 3’s specs circling the web.

Reports suggest that the car will be able to reach zero to 60 miles per hour in just four seconds – just a second slower than Tesla’s high end Model S offering. Others suggest the car might actually boast a range of close to 300 miles (482 kilometres).

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The Model 3 will likely be smaller than the Model S, but is expected to have a “sleek and sporty” design. And while the car will start at US$35,000, the company is likely to offer upgraded models and packages for a lot more.

READ MORE: Tesla to limit autopilot capabilities to prevent drivers from ‘doing crazy things’

“I would really like to have dual motor, just because the torque put out by an electric motor can cause slippage on wet roads with a two wheel drive,” said Preece of his future car. “And I would like to have a tech package, but I’m not sure I can afford it.”

Preece said he’s been interested in buying an electric car since he was 13 and has followed the development of Tesla and other electric car manufactures ever since.

“When I was 13, GM released the EV1 – at that point I decided my first brand-new vehicle was going to be all electric,” he said.

As Tesla turns 13, the Model 3 marks its most serious test yet to go from a niche player to a full-fledged automaker.

Analysts say it could be the car that finally makes electrics mainstream – or customers could be scared off by the company’s limited number of stores and service centres. Tesla only has six Canadian dealerships and three service centres.

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“The Model 3 is going to be a pivotal model for Tesla,” said Patrick Min, a senior analyst with the car-buying site TrueCar.com.

The Model 3 puts Tesla within reach of millions more customers. Last year, only 2.1 per cent of new cars purchased in the U.S. cost US$75,000 or more, but 35 per cent – or 5.5 million – cost US$35,000 or more, according to TrueCar.

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

Canadian consumers can also benefit from government incentives for buying electric.

For example, Ontario residents are eligible for up to $8,500 in rebates when purchasing certain electric models. B.C. and Quebec residents can receive up to $5,000 in rebates.

Affordable electric cars could be even more attractive to Canadians if gas prices were to jump again.

Let’s compare Tesla’s Model S with a competitor like the BMW 3-series. On average, the BMW 3-series would hold 57 litres of fuel on a full tank. Now let’s say the average fuel price was C$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.

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Drive that car for eight years and you would end up spending more than $11,000 in gas alone.

Tesla will be streaming the unveiling of the Model 3 live on its website, starting at 11:30 p.m. ET.

– With files from The Associated Press

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