Elon Musk reveals details of the new Tesla

The name of the new Tesla will not lend itself to sex jokes as previously hoped.

“We had the model S for sedan and X for crossover SUV, then a friend asked what we were going to call the third car,” Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk told Auto Express. “So I said we had the model S and X, we might as well have the E. We were going to call it model E for a while and then Ford sued us saying it wanted to use the Model E – I thought this is crazy, Ford’s trying to kill sex! So we’ll have to think of another name.”

The smaller, all-electric car will be called “Model III,” and is designed to take on BMW’s 3 series. According to the report, which Tesla confirmed Tuesday on Twitter, the car should be unveiled in 2016 and on sale by 2017.

Musk told Auto Insider it would retail for about $35,000 — thanks to the cheaper, smaller, lighter batteries it plans to make at its yet-to-be-built Gigafactory, which the Economist expects to be a “critical turning point in making electric cars more competitive” because it will cut production costs.

Musk said back in March the car would be 20 percent smaller than the Model S and have a 200-mile range — less than the Model S, which can go 265 miles before it has to be charged again.

Like Tesla’s other cars, the Model III will come with free use of the company’s Supercharger Network, a series of stations that provide half of a full charge in 20 minutes. Today there are 102 stations in the United States with complete coverage of the East and West coasts and a cross-country route.

British engineering chief Chris Porritt — previously of Aston Martin, the luxury British carmaker of James Bond fame – is credited with coming up with the technology for the car. He joined Tesla last year.

Musk also plans to upgrade Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, which debuted in 2008. The car’s range is 245 miles, but a planned battery upgrade would increase that to 400, Musk told Auto Express.

Tesla’s crossover SUV, the Model X, will be available later this year. The company originally planned to begin building it last year, but that timetable was pushed back. Musk said it was harder to design than the earlier S model.

Auto Insider has mockups of what they expect the car to look like, but Tesla has not released photos yet.

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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