The Tesla Model 3 won't be here for almost two years, but you might as well start comparison shopping!
The Tesla Model 3 is supposed to ship by the end of 2017 and there's a good chance that it's going to revolutionize the way we see the automotive. The fact that we're talking about it now is an early testament to the influential nature of Elon Musk.
So, if the Model 3's release has you as pumped as us, then you might be considering it for your next vehicle. We're here to help you comparison shop, since there are already a few 100% electric cars on the market.
The Nissan Leaf is perhaps the most popular electric car out there right now, so let's see how it stacks up to the forthcoming Model 3.
Let's just get this one out of the way, since price is almost always the mitigating factor when it comes to buying a car. Most people think of Teslas as luxury automobiles that aren't even a realistic choice for the middle class. You'd be surprised.
Tesla Model 3
Starting at $35,000 (before incentives and options) the Model 3 is Tesla's least expensive offer to date. For a modest $1,000 up front, you can reserve the Model 3 and jump on the bandwagon with hundreds of thousands of other folks who are sick of gas stations.
The Nissan Leaf comes in three models: S, SV, and SL. Each has different features and the SV and SL have a slightly larger battery, giving them a little more mileage. The S starts at $29,010, the SV at $34,200, and the SL at $36,790, all before options and incentives.
The majority of us are probably most concerned with just how far one of these new-fangled electronic automobiles can go. Mileage is a big deal, especially if you don't plan on being near a charger for a day or two or are headed out on a bit of a road trip. It's not like a gas vehicle where you can walk to a gas station and bring some fuel back to the car. You can't carry electricity.
Tesla Model 3
The Model 3 boasts a 215-mile range (after roughly 7 hours of charging on a 240V outlet), which is more than enough for everyday driving. The average commute to work is under 20 miles, which means you have plenty of juice to make it to and from work and to do run your standard errands and most anything else you might have planned. If your commute is even shorter, then you might only need to charge your Model 3 every five days to a week.
The S has a range of around 84 miles, while the SV and SL have a 107-mile range, thanks to a slightly bigger battery. Those are still fairly solid ranges, especially if you're just a to-and-from-work kind of driver; however, you'll probably want to charge two or three days, if not every night.
Great, the cars work and they take you where you need to go, but where does the fun come in and just how much fun is to be had with an electric car?
The answer: a lot!
When most of us look for a car, we probably look for one that's safe and will last us a while, but bells and whistles are sometimes what really sell us.
Tesla Model 3
Some folks might think that an electric is more like a toy and probably doesn't have much get-up-and-go, but the Model 3 will go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 6 seconds.
There is speculation that all Model 3s will come with standard Supercharging, which is incredibly valuable if you're running low and have further to drive than what your current battery level will allow. Billed as the world's fastest charging station, there are more than 600 Supercharger stations across the United States, with over 3,600 individual chargers. Based on the Model S, a Supercharger can provide almost 170 miles of range in as little as 30 minutes.
Instead of a center console laden with knobs and buttons, the Model 3 will come with a 15-inch landscape touchscreen. You essentially get a tablet to control your car's comfort functions, like the radio, heating and cooling, and all that fun stuff.
In a move toward self-driving vehicles, Tesla Autopilot hardware will come standard in the Model 3; it'll be able to drive itself! While we don't yet know to what degree the Model 3's Autopilot will function, current Model S and Model X vehicles equipped with Autopilot have advanced adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping as well as self-parking. The Model 3 isn't due out until the end of 2017, so who knows what advancements Tesla Autopilot will have made by then.
One thing's for certain, though: while the Model 3 may have the hardware for Autopilot built in, actually enabling it will require a software upgrade charge. Currently that's a $2500 fee.
The Leaf's features aren't as futuristic as the Model 3's, but if you bump up to the SV or SL models, you'll still have some fun.
Like Tesla, Nissan's got an app, NissanConnect, that lets you check up on your battery percentage, begin charging, see estimated drive range, and activate the climate control system. Yeah, you can heat up your car without having to go out and start it (northerners, rejoice!). You'll need to have the SV or SL model to get in on the NissanConnect action.
Nissan has it's own version of the Supercharger, the Quick Charge port, which can fully charge your Leaf in as little as half an hour.
The SV also has an auto-dimming rearview mirror, in case anyone with their brights on is tailgating you. There's also a handy hands-free text messaging feature that will read aloud and let you respond to texts.
If you bump up to the SL, you get fog lights, automatic low-beam LED headlights, and leather seats.
So, it works well, it's got some bells and whistles, but is it sexy?
Tesla Model 3
Long story short: yes. Yes, the Model 3 is sexy. Until recently, you would have to watch movies like "The Fifth Element" or "I, Robot" to see a car this cool. The Model 3 is slick and looks like a guy in a cologne commercial would be driving one. It's about as streamlined as you can get with a car, with no little bumps for radio antennae or any other blemishes that sacrifice beauty for function.
The tires have a quite a low profile, which adds to the sex appeal making the Model 3 sit fairly low. You're not going to bottom out over speed bumps, thanks to optional active air suspension, but you're not driving a monster truck by any means.
The Model 3 is also a great size for an electric car or for any sedan for that matter. It can comfortable sit five adults like any other car in its class. So, it combines a futuristic design with functionality, all without looking like a Power Rangers vehicle (we're lookin' at you, BMW i3).
One of the turn-offs of fully-electric cars is the stigma that they're compact, like really compact. The Leaf is somewhat guilty in helping further that stereotype. Sure, it seats five, but at least two of the five better be literal lap dogs, or it's gonna feel a little tight in there. The back seats also sit a little higher than the front, so if you're built like Lurch from the Addams Family, you're gonna have your ear to the ceiling.
There is also that unsightly radio antenna hanging out the back like a mullet, but it's still far better than having the antenna on the hood and waggling around with a Wal-Mart smiley face on the top.
The Leaf is a hatchback, so for such a small car, you still get a fairly decent 24 cubic feet of trunk space.
The bottom line
All-electric cars are definitely the way of the automotive future, so it's a good idea to jump in now and get in on the ground floor, so to speak.
If you're looking for the EV that has it all and will have more as time goes on, then the Tesla Model 3 will be the best place to start.
However, if you just can't wait to have an EV of your very own, you could totally do worse than the Leaf. Once the Model 3 comes out, the Leaf SL's price tag won't be worth it at all, so you might as well opt for the SV, if you're wanting to make the move in the next year and a half. Otherwise, quiver with anticipation like the rest of us and hold out for the Tesla Model 3.
The end of 2017 can't get here soon enough!