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Tesla Model 3
A release candidate version of the Tesla Model 3 hits the streets. (Elon Musk via Twitter)

Tesla’s billionaire CEO, Elon Musk, is showing off a video of the company’s more affordable Model 3 electric car – but he’s also touting Tesla’s pricier models.

A clip that shows a black release candidate version of the Model 3 zipping down the street popped up this morning on Musk’s Twitter and Instagram feeds, and quickly picked up tens of thousands of views, plus thousands of shares:

Tesla is counting on the Model 3 to bring electric cars to the masses: It’s thought that well more than 400,000 would-be customers have plunked down $1,000 deposits for the car, which carries a base price of $35,000.

Today’s tweet signals that test building has already begun, and suggests Tesla could hit its anticipated July time frame for the start of production. The company says it aims to ramp up operations at its California assembly plant to produce 500,000 cars in 2018 – an amazingly ambitious goal.

Most of Musk’s tweetstorm was devoted to singing the praises (and retweeting others’ praise) of Tesla’s existing Model S and Model X, which cost tens of thousands of dollars more than the Model 3. The reason is clear: Musk is already anticipating that some potential Tesla buyers might hold off on a bigger purchase and wait for the Model 3.

Here’s how Musk stated his case for not waiting:

Musk compared the Model 3 to a “BMW 3 series or Audi A4,” while he saw the Model S as analogous to the BMW 5 or 6, “but much faster, more storage space plus Autopilot.”

From the beginning, the Model 3 will have the same autonomous capability that’s being built into all S and X cars. Musk said the first Model 3 cars will be rear-wheel-drive, with a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive version to follow next year.

Model Y wasn’t the only yet-to-be-built vehicle that Musk hinted at. He joked that the Tesla Semi truck should have “no problem” beating sports cars at going from zero to 60 mph, and tweeted that the “Model S will always be the fastest Tesla until the next-gen Roadster, which is a few years away.”

In other news, Musk told one of his followers that Tesla would start taking orders in April for electricity-generating roof tiles, a.k.a. “solar shingles.” He also confirmed that he’s progressing on plans to bore a tunnel beneath a street near SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

“Machine arrives next month and we start digging the tunnel!” he tweeted.

Phew!

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