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Tesla Model 3 prototypes: hiding in plain sight?

Tesla has yet to reveal what its hotly-anticipated Model 3 electric car will look like, but a recent TV interview with CEO Elon Musk has Tesla fanatics searching for clues. 

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    A Tesla Motors logo is shown on a Tesla Model S at a Tesla Motors dealership at Corte Madera Village, an outdoor retail mall, in Corte Madera, Calif.
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Tesla Motors says it will unveil the 200-mile, $35,000 Model 3 electric car next year, ahead of a production start presently scheduled for 2017.

The new sedan is a key part of Tesla's plan to build 500,000 cars per year by 2020.

But while Tesla has already revealed the car's target price and range, it hasn't revealed anything about what the Model 3 will look like.

A burning desire for any advance information about the Model 3 caused a few members of the Tesla Motors Club forum to flag a recent video profile of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, which ran on the Australian version of 60 Minutes.

A portion of the interview shot in the Tesla design studio shows several cars covered by sheets to hide them from prying eyes.

One is a partially-uncovered clay model of a crossover.

The section of the rear visible in the video appears stylistically similar to the Tesla Model X electric crossover utility vehicle that will launch before the end of this year.

It's based on elements of the current Model S, meaning it's considerably larger than the Model 3 will be.

The two designers interviewed for the piece refused to reveal any details--and as one forum commenter noted, such secrecy would be pointless if this really was the upcoming Model X.

Numerous showings of concept and pre-production models have already made the public familiar with the Model X's design, though the final production version hasn't yet been revealed.

That's led to speculation that the clay model shown in the video is in fact the rumored crossover version of the Model 3, which would be sold alongside the sedan.

Two other covered shapes sit on the other side of the studio, near the James Bond Lotus Esprit submarine that Musk has discussed rebuilding with an all-electric powertrain. 

One of those two shapes appears smaller than the other: Could that be the Tesla Model 3 sedan?

It will likely still be some time before we find out for sure, but Tesla is often good at hints, suggestions, and subtle indications. (CEO Elon Musk just tweets, of course.)

So far, Tesla Motors has not given a date for the Model 3 unveiling, but a recent report puts it about seven months from now, in March 2016.

The Tesla Model 3 will not go into production until calendar-year 2017 at the earliest, and many analysts suggest that date will slip to 2018.

Tesla's "Gigafactory" near Reno, Nevada, is expected to be producing lithium-ion cells well before then, and production will have ramped up enough to provide the economies of scale that will make the Model 3's $35,000 base price viable.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best auto bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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