The launch of Tesla’s Model X may have been pushed back until later in 2015, but someone is apparently getting to enjoy how the electric SUV launches from a standing start. A case of “right place, right time” saw Juan del Real catch the camouflaged car undergoing testing in Alameda, California, hooning up and down a runway as some lucky driver got to put the EV powertrain – and the prototype’s brakes – through their paces. However, there’s also speculation that what we’re seeing is no Model X, and could in fact be something much more interesting: Tesla‘s upcoming “affordable” EV, the Model 3.
The confusion stems from an Instagram photo from Brandon Kiehne, who also happened to be nearby during the testing process. He snapped the prototype half out of a transporter, but was told by the Tesla team on-site that he couldn’t get any closer or take more shots.
It’s the proportions of the car in that single photo, and its resemblance in profile to the Toyota Prius, that has prompted questions around whether this is in fact an early tester of the smaller Tesla.
Tesla has been known to use Prius body shells to hide early prototypes, and arguments are ongoing over whether this particular car on the runway is big enough to be the seven-seater Model X.
The Model 3 isn’t expected to hit showrooms until 2017, and with interest rampant over what the car will look like, a heavy disguise would certainly be appropriate. Tesla is targeting a roughly $30-35k sticker price, significantly undercutting the more premium, larger Model S, and potentially opening the door to a new audience for the automaker.
Whatever car it is, it’s not the only engineering work Tesla is undertaking. Earlier this year, outspoken CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the company is working on a robotic charger that would be able to physically navigate across a garage floor and plug itself into the car.
Meanwhile, software updates for the Model S are expected to make the existing car even faster.