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Tesla Unveils Cheaper Car Aimed at Mass Market

Model 3 is designed to have a range of at least 215 miles with a fully charged battery.

Tesla unveiled a new, cheaper model of its electric car aimed at the mass market on Thursday, taking more than 115,000 orders in the past 24 hours -- nearly three times the number of cars it produced in all of last year.

The company said orders were piling up even though the new car won't be available until late next year.

The new Model 3 will have a base price of $35,000, half that of the two models it now sells -- the Model S and the Model X, which start at $70,000.

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"The total number of orders for the Model 3 in the past 24 hours has now passed 115,000," said company founder Elon Musk at a presentation of the new car.

The Model 3 is scheduled to hit the market late next year. Musk described it as "the final step in the master plan: a mass market, affordable car."

With Model 3, Tesla aims to show it can appeal to the general public and produce cars en masse. It should account for the lion's share of the 500,000 cars that Tesla had set as its production goal for 2020. Last year, it turned out 50,000.

Model 3 is designed to have a range of at least 215 miles (346 kilometers) with a fully charged battery and be able to carry five adults comfortably.

The car will also be compatible with a fast-charging battery system and Tesla's "Autopilot" self-driving system. Special safety features are available at no extra cost, Musk said without going into detail.

"Even if you buy no options at all, this will be an amazing car," he said.

Some analysts said this moment is as big for Tesla as the unveiling of the iPhone was for Apple.

Before Thursday's presentation, lines formed outside Tesla stores as people waited to place orders for the new car.

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Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the automotive website Edmunds.com, put it this way: "This has to be a first for the automotive industry: lines of people waiting to place an order for a car that won't be available for over a year."

"This is the type of buzz that you see with Star Wars movies or new iPhones or even cronuts. And it's not just in Silicon Valley or L.A. This is a phenomenon we're seeing across the country," she wrote.

"If there's ever been any evidence that Tesla is primed to make the leap to mainstream car buyers, this is it," Caldwell wrote.

SEE PHOTOS: 10 Formula E Cars Racing Toward the Finish Line

On Saturday, Sept 13, in Beijing, China, ten race teams will compete in the world's first Formula E race. The race is just one of ten to take place in ten different cities around the world as part of the

FIA Formula-E Championship

.

The competition is meant to push electric car designers toward innovations that could one day end up in street cars. To follow the races and their results, bookmark the "

Results

" page and check back periodically, or follow #DrivetheFuture on Twitter. For now, just feast your eyes on the machines.

Home base: Tokyo, Japan. Drivers: Katherine Legge, Takuma Sato and Fabio Leimer

Home base: Indianapolis, USA Drivers: Franck Montagny, Charles Pic and Matthew Brabham

Home base: Allgäu , Germany Drivers: Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt

Home base: China Drivers: Nelson Piquet, Ho-Pin Tung and Antonio Garcia

Home base: Los Angeles, USA Drivers: Jerome d'Ambrosio and Oriol Servià

Home base: Mumbai, India Drivers: Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna

Home base: Le Mans, France Drivers: Nicolas Prost and Sébastien Buemi

Home base: Switzerland Drivers: Jarno Trulli and Michela Cerruti

Home base: Monte Carlo, Monaco Drivers: Nick Heidfeld and Stéphane Sarrazin

Home base: London, United Kingdom Drivers: Jaime Alguersuari and Sam Bird