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Elon Musk says the Tesla Model 3 ‘won’t look like other cars’

Updated Nov 18th, 2015 5:01PM EST
Tesla Model 3 Design

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From the very beginning, Tesla’s long-term goal has been to develop and manufacture an affordable and attractive electric vehicle for the masses. The highly anticipated Tesla Model 3, therefore, will likely be a ‘make or break’ moment for the Elon Musk led company.

With a rumored price point of $35,000, Tesla is hoping that the Model 3 will help the company ship a whopping 500,000 cars in 2020. That’s a whole lot of pressure to place atop the Model 3, especially given that we don’t know much about it just yet.

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One of the more intriguing aspects of the Model 3 will be how the car itself will look, and so far, all we know about the Model 3 is that we should expect the unexpected. During a Reddit AMA held a few months ago, Musk was asked if he could share anything about the Model 3 that the public wasn’t yet aware of.

Musk’s response was pointed and tantalizing: “It won’t look like other cars.”

So where does that leave us?

Well, a few nuggets of information about the Model 3 design have made their way into the news over the past many months that are worth highlighting.

First off, it’s worth referencing the following quote from Tesla Chief Designer Franz von Holzhausen: During an interview with Gigaom a while back, von Holzhausen said that whereas the Model S sported a classic “ready to wear” design, the Model 3 would be “more expressive” and would represent a more “couture” design.

More recently, Electrek, citing a source with connections to Tesla’s design group, published a report indicating that Tesla is going all out in an effort to achieve a design with a drag coefficient lower than .2. In doing so, the report indicates that the Model 3 might feature some avant-garde designs.

What I’m hearing internally is that CEO Elon Musk is intensely driving the engineering designers to deliver a design with a drag coefficient lower than .20 which would make it the lowest of any mass production car in the world and close to extreme vehicles like GM’s EV1 and Volkswagen’s XL1 (pictured above), – both cars that have flat rear wheel covers

Achieving extremely low drag coefficients can often result in unconventional – at times unappealing – designs. But considering Musk’s penchant for aesthetics, it is unlikely Tesla will sacrifice visual appeal for better aerodynamic performance.

On a related note, you might recall that early incarnations of the Model X completely did away with side view mirrors, relying upon cameras instead. This design, choice, however, didn’t pass muster with regulatory bodies, despite Tesla’s concerted efforts to get certain laws changed.

Over the past few years, Musk has been rather outspoken about his distaste for cars with ugly designs. All that being said, it stands to reason that the Model 3 will feature a rather distinctive design, but one that will likely not alienate prospective buyers. After all, the Model 3 is being positioned as a mass market vehicle.

So when might we get our first glimpse of the Model 3? Sooner than you might expect. Last we heard, Tesla is planning to showcase a Model 3 prototype during the first quarter of 2016.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.