Tesla’s Affordable, $35K Model 3 Will Be Unveiled Tonight – Here’s What We Know So Far

And so begins the test for Tesla’s mass-market endurance.

Tesla Motors is set to unveil its highly anticipated Model 3 tonight, which marks the company’s first affordable electric car. It’ll be just the second Tesla vehicle on the market after the Model S sedan, which starts at just over $100,000 CDN. Its Model X crossover SUV, with an estimated price tag over $150,000, will take new reservations later this year after a somewhat rocky start.

Here’s what we know about the Model 3 so far…

It’ll come with a starting price of $45,300 CDN. Federal and provincial government incentives – a high-five for going green – will push the price down by up to $14,000 in Ontario, for example, through the province’s electric car subsidy. Tesla buyers in the US, on the other hand, will be eligible for a roughly $10,000 federal tax credit when the company hits 200,000 in total US sales. Tesla CEO Elon Musk forecasts 500,000 total company sales annually by 2020. He’ll need that prediction to be on point given that the company is currently losing money with its 85,000 sales a year.

Auto analysts liken the Model 3’s acceleration and handling to that of a BMW and expect a variety of body styles including a four-door sedan, coupe, cabriolet, small SUV and other passenger configurations. A full charge is expected to carry you at least 320 kilometres, which is more than double that of its competitors, the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3. Barclays predicts the new vehicle will garner 95,000 reservations before it begins shipping them to customers, who’ll need to stamp their name on it with a $6,500 down payment upfront.

Lines to make a reservation began forming in the wee hours this morning in cities across Canada, despite buyers having no idea when their car may arrive. In fact, they haven’t even been produced yet – Model 3 production at its Fremont, California factory is slated for end of 2017, a date that many expect to be pushed back by delays.

Two major challenges lie ahead for the Model 3: one of its biggest rivals, the Chevrolet Bolt, will be released towards the end of 2016, a full year before the Model 3. Low gas prices also cast a shadow of concern over consumers’ motivation to drive electric.

You can tune into the Model 3 unveiling live starting at 8:30pm Pacific Time (11:30pm EST) on the Tesla website.