The ‘automobile of the future’ –– Tesla’s Model 3 –– was unveiled on Thursday by its CEO Elon Musk amid high-gear hype, but deliveries of the eagerly awaited “mass market” electric car won’t roll out for the next 20 months.

Yet, the “affordable” $35,000 (₹23 lakh), four-door sedan racked up bookings of 180,000 within 24 hours, including from India, which Musk mentioned as one of the countries where the Model 3 will be available.

However, there has been no formal announcement about Tesla’s India plans. And although the press kit for the launch makes no mention of India, the reservation form lists it among 48 countries from where bookings can be made.

An email seeking details of the company’s plans for India, sent to Tesla's APAC Press Office (Australia and Asia), remained unanswered till Friday evening. Prospective buyers must pay a $1,000 deposit, adjustable against the final price, but there is no certainty of a sale. Tesla’s ‘reservation agreement’ says that while “this reservation secures the approximate delivery priority within your region, it does not constitute the purchase or order of a vehicle.”

It will be pricier here

The reservation form lists the Model 3’s price as $35,000 (before federal incentives) for buyers from all regions, less than half the price of the earlier Model S and Model X.

However, the final landed price of the Model 3 is likely to be vastly higher for Indian buyers. In the absence of duty exemptions or incentives, the final price could be as high as $80,000 (₹53 lakh). Musk indicated that deliveries would start by end-2017, and the number of dealers or selling points would go up from 215 to 441 globally by .

The network of superchargers and destination chargers, where you can plug in a Tesla to extend its driving range, is set to more than double in that time.

Infrastructure, dealer network

Musk’s plans for India might involve setting up the dealer and charging infrastructure over the next two years in the run-up to the official launch of the Model 3. Such a timeframe is considered too short for conventional car companies to start operations, but adequate for a niche player.

Later this month a high-level working group of the Centre is set to meet to assess if India can be a 100 per cent electric vehicle country by 2030.

Cars like the Model 3 could benefit if the government sets out an incentive scheme to meet such an ambitious target.

Indians lining up to buy

Many prospective buyers in India are electrified by the prospect of owning what promises to be an iconic automobile.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of the mobile wallet company Paytm, announced on Twitter that he had booked the Model 3. He even shared a screenshot of the transaction.

Sharma, a die-hard Musk fan, told BusinessLine: “Given a chance, I want to be the first Tesla owner in India. Not just because it is an electric car but also because I am a fan boy of Elon. I had asked him (Elon) in 2013 when I could I own a Tesla and he said that once they launched a right-hand drive, I could import one.”

Sharma is not the only Indian fan-boy of this Palo Alto-based innovative auto company. Venture capitalist Mahesh Murthy, Voonik’s founder Sujayath Ali, GOQii founder Vishal Gondal, Amit Bhawani, a technology expert and founder of AndroidAdvices and Wingify CTO Sparsh Gupta, among a few others, have also booked the car.

While Tesla has not launched any of its popular sedans in India so far, it will be interesting to see how the auto major fares in the market, where electric vehicle market is still in a nascent stage.

Kaushik Madhavan, Director (Automotive and Transportation) at consultancy firm Frost and Sullivan, said, “Tesla’s pricing in India will be at the premium segment, which is witnessing double-digit growth. However, the pure electric cars segment is yet to take off in India as the government is yet to incentivise private ownership of electric vehicles and set up charging stations.”

The Centre is currently focussed on introducing electric vehicles in the public transportation space.

Experts feel that while Tesla is testing the Indian market for a pure electric car, other auto majors such as Hyundai and General Motors are planning to launch hybrid models (which use both electricity and fuel).

Home-grown Mahindra is the only one running a pure electric car called e20, earlier called Reva.

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