New midrange $45,000 Tesla Model 3 version offers 260 miles

The long-promised $35,000 Tesla Model 3 won't appear on the automaker's menu until sometime in 2019, but until then Tesla hopes that a midrange version will satisfy those who don't want to spend on one of the more expensive flavors. Elon Musk announced an all-new $45,000 variant of the Model 3 in a tweet this week, a version that will offer a range of 260 miles.

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 mph sprint takes 5.6 seconds instead of 4.5 seconds, and top speed is 125 mph instead of 145. Not huge losses overall — the 50-mile drop in range is the main tradeoff.

"As Model 3 production and sales continue to grow rapidly, we’ve achieved a steady volume in manufacturing capacity, allowing us to diversify our product offering to even more customers," Tesla said in a statement. "Our new Mid-Range Battery is being introduced this week in the U.S. and Canada to better meet the varying range needs of the many customers eager to own Model 3, and our delivery estimate for customers who have ordered the Standard Battery is 4-6 months."

The mid-range model is one of three main versions of the Model 3 that the automaker is expected to eventually offer — short, mid and long; Tesla has favored offering the more expensive versions first for financial reasons.

Aside from adding a new version of the Model 3 to the lineup, Tesla also subtracted one: The long-range, rear-wheel-drive flavor is going away but is still available "for another week or so," according to Elon Musk. This was a $49,000 version of the Model 3, which was paired with the premium package.

The announcement of the midrange model came with no early warning or indication that this model was being added to the lineup, catching Tesla watchers by surprise. It's not clear if this timetable for the debut of the midrange model was originally planned by Tesla, or if the timing was pushed up due to other factors such as gaining orders ahead of the halving of the $7,500 federal tax credit later this year. Tesla announced a few weeks ago that customers had to order cars by Oct. 15 of this year to qualify for the full $7,500 credit.

"Costs $35k after federal & state tax rebates in California, but true cost of ownership is closer to $31k after gas savings," Musk claimed in a tweet announcing the new variant.

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