Tesla has updated its Model 3 order page on its website, with certain changes including an increased driving range hinting that suggest it will now be the China-made Model 3 that will come to Australia.
Update: this is confirmed by a listing on the Road Vehicle Certification System (RVCS) website where Tesla has submitted a Model 3 with a Chinese VIN (denoted by “LRW” at the beginning).
Importantly, the listing includes two VINs, with two engine powers (239kW and 366kW) and variant names corresponding to previously listed Fremont-made variants that indicate Tesla may be planning to import a China-made Long Range Model 3 as well as a Standard Range Plus (SR+) Model 3.
Currently, there is no Long Range Model 3 listed on Tesla’s China website.
Additionally, customers are beginning to report that Tesla showrooms have confirmed that several existing orders have been “soft-matched” to Chinese VINs. It is unclear if Tesla is already planning to bring in the China-made Long Range
Changes on the Model 3 order page to the Standard Range Plus include 19″ inch sport wheels now available as an option for $A2,200 (the entry-level Model 3 was previously only available with 18″ aeros), and the option to choose a white interior for $A1,500 (a black interior was the only colour on offer previously), as first noted by EV-HQ.
The Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus driving range is also now listed at 508km instead of the previous 490km (noting that these are figures are based on the NEDC cycle and are therefore much higher than actual driving range).
A heavier TARE for the SR+ model in the RVCA listing indicates new Model 3s arriving in Australia will have the cheaper and heavier lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery made by Chinese battery maker CATL, that Tesla began using at its Shanghai factory in its bid to localise parts to reduce production costs.
A price change had not been applied to the Model 3 order page in Australia as of Saturday afternoon.
The Long Range listing has about the same weight as the Fremont-made stablemate, indicating it will have the same NCA battery.
Some European reports suggest the LFP battery may charge more slowly than the NCA battery used in the Fremont-made model, however this should only be an issue in cold weather.
The LFP battery’s ability to charge to 100% on a regular basis will in fact mean a better usable driving range than the NCA battery, which is best only charged to 90% meaning an effective driving range of under 400km.
The changes come as images emerged of a massive batch of right-hand-drive Model 3 were spotted at Tesla’s Shanghai factory, prompting speculation that Tesla is preparing to start delivering the China-made to markets such as Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, as reported by Techau on Friday.
A batch of MIC MODEL3 with protective film appeared in the Shanghai factory. Obviously, these M3 will be exported to overseas markets and they are right-hand drive vehicles. pic.twitter.com/FChUcAanwJ
— 乌瓦 (@bentv_sh) January 14, 2021
Importantly, it would appear Tesla has already started to match these vehicles to existing orders. In a Facebook post on Saturday, an existing customer said that they had spoken to a Tesla sales representative by phone who has told them “they can see 300 orders with soft matched VINs ready for this next shipment and they seem to be Shanghai VINs”.
The staff member also said that Tesla is “implementing the ability to tweak …. design features” for those who have orders in the pipeline who would like to take advantage of the new options.
While the China-made Model 3 also sports some of the same changes as Tesla applied to its Fremont-made 2021 refresh Model 3 which first arrived in Australia in December, such as black door handles and window surrounds instead of chrome, it is not clear if the China-made Model 3 will also feature the Model Y heat pump.
Teslarati reported in September that Tesla had ordered 450,000 heat pump for Shanghai indicating this may well be the case.
Based on the document, it’s reasonable to assume Model 3s are either being made with heat pumps now or will soon.
— Ray4Tesla⚡️🚘☀️🔋 (@ray4tesla) September 14, 2020
The Model Y heat pump uses a highly efficient octovalve which it is understood significantly reduces the energy consumption of auxiliary functions such as heating and cooling.
We have reached out to Tesla Australia to confirm more details and will update this article when more information is known.
This article has been updated with more information based on the RVCS website.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.