Tesla Model 3 launch - what to expect

When it is, what it is and why every car and tech fan should be excited

Tesla's high-tech, Ferarri-baiting Model S is one hell of an machine, but the upcoming Model 3 could be the electric car of the people.

We're less than a day away from a full reveal, with Elon Musk set to officially announce the car in California tonight at 8:30PM. That's 11.30AM Friday morning for us here .

If you're a car nut (or an insomniac), set the alarm and tune in on Tesla's website. Or just check back here tomorrow morning for all of the news if you love sleep too much.

And if you simply can't wait until then, there have already been plenty of teases and leaks in the run up to launch, so we've got a good idea what to expect when Musk pulls back the curtain tonight. Here's everything you need to know.

Model 3? What's all that then?

Tesla started out with the Roadster, a limited run sportscar that proved electric cars could be super-fast and sporty, instead of slow and ugly milkfloats. The Model S saloon was a bit more mainstream, but it'll be the Model 3 that brings Tesla to the masses.

It will still be a four-door saloon (at least at first), but it's going to be a smaller than the Model S and designed to take on supremely popular mainstream cars such as the BMW 3-series and Audi A4.

It should also have the power to compete with the very hottest saloons out there. The Model S is already capable of hitting 60mph in a pant-wetting 2.8 seconds, and while we're not expecting the entry-level Model 3 to quite match that, we do expect it to be extremely fast for the price and class.

Elon Musk has also promised that the Model 3 will have a range of at least 200 miles, and the latest rumours suggest 225 miles is likely to be the maximum range. That's a fair chunk less than the Model S's range, but still way more miles than most drivers do in a day.

With a price tag of around $35,000 (about RM136,000), it's going to be a very tempting proposition for those people who've so far been priced out of buying a Tesla. Do you buy a standard BMW or Audi, or an all-electric, super-cheap-to-run, super-fast, super-smart Tesla? That's a question many 'normal' car buyers will be asking themselves when the Model 3 launches.

So when will it launch?

That launch is quite a while away, though. Production won't start until "late 2017", and company founder Elon Musk has suggested that while the car will be revealed tonight, this is just part 1 of 2.

We know that tonight will be our first look at the design of the car, which has so far only been tantalisingly teased at, and rumours suggest it will also be drivable by attendees, so what could possibly be held back for a later event? It could be details of the infotainment system (which may or may not be similar to the huge, portrait-oriented touchscreen in the Model S), it could be the range of options available or even the final performance figures.

Alternatively it could be different variants and body styles. We know that the Model 3 is intended not only as a single car, but as a platform for a whole range of vehicles. Rumours of a crossover (small SUV) are particularly strong, but an estate and coupe also seem likely in the long-run. Perhaps the later event will be to detail one or more of these.

But you don't need to wait until late 2017 to order one. Right now you can wander into a Tesla store and stump up a £1000 (almost RM5,600) deposit, or you can wait until online pre-orders open during the live launch event. Be warned, though, that cars will be delivered on a first-come, first-served basis (with existing Tesla owners prioritised), and that a few hundred deposits have already been taken.

One chap in Australia even queued for 48 hours to become the very first person in the world to pre-order one. Unfortunately for him, he won't be the first person in the world to actually get his car, as deliveries will be made in the US first (starting in the West before moving East), then left-hand drive regions of Europe, then the UK and other right-hand drive regions, including Australia. What that looks like in terms of actual timings hasn't been revealed, but it could well be the summer of 2018 before the first cars are spotted on UK roads.

We may well have burst from excitement by that point, but at least we'll have pictures and details in the next few hours. Stay tuned for more as it happens.