Surprise! Tesla's Model 3 now has a mid-range battery option

Tesla Model 3

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Tesla has started selling a new variant of the Model 3 compact electric sedan, but it's not the $35,000 variant that the world was promised two and a half years ago.

Five-star crash rated, the Tesla Model 3 comes equipped with Tesla Autopilot standard.

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And while Tesla said last week that only cars ordered by October 15 would be guaranteed delivery before the end of 2018, when the available federal tax credit for their purchase drops from $7,500 to $3,750, the Model 3 ordering website says that deliveries of the mid-range versions are possible within six to 10 weeks, which would get some in before the deadline. When they do, the amount that customers will effectively pay for a Model 3 will much be closer to the list price of the vehicle.

The midrange model is basically a long-range model with fewer cells in its battery pack, offering slightly slower acceleration and a lower top speed compared to the long-range model: a 0-60 miles per hour sprint takes 5.6 seconds instead of 4.5 seconds, and top speed is 125 miles per hour instead of 145.

The specs: an anticipated EPA range of 260 miles, 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.6 seconds, and a top speed of 125 mph-compared with 310 miles, 5.1 seconds, and 140 mph for the Long Range rear-wheel drive version that was originally introduced. A cheaper rear-wheel version will no longer be available.

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The move could ratchet up the pressure on Tesla's already-straining California factory and its nationwide system built to deliver cars to customers, which Musk described last month as mired in "delivery logistics hell". That's a timeline that could just eke a number of cars through for delivery-especially perhaps in California and on the West Coast-in time for the full $7,500 tax credit.

A Tesla Model 3 sedan, its first vehicle aimed at the mass market, is displayed during its launch in Hawthorne, California, March 31, 2016. (TSLA) founder and CEO Elon Musks' Twitter account on Thursday after the high profile entrepreneur announced that a lower-cost Model 3 was immediately available for order on the auto maker's website. Tesla says delivery for the new mid-range Model 3 should take six to 10 weeks. Shipping a $35,000 iteration of the sedan right away would "cause Tesla to lose money & die", he tweeted.

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