An affordable Tesla electric vehicle may still be a pipe dream for many of us, but it’s a dream that could be edging to reality faster than you’d think – especially for those in China. According to a report by Sina Finance, the company is looking to build an entry-level model in the Middle Kingdom as early as next year, citing documents related to the Gigafactory in Shanghai.

The publication stated that the car was approved in September and is expected to have its product verification completed by March. The new model is set to be based on the Model 3 but positioned below it, with a price range of between 150,000 yuan (RM94,100) and 200,000 yuan (RM125,600).

That’s right around the ballpark of what was announced at Tesla’s Battery Day event last year, during which CEO Elon Musk promised to build a “compelling” and “fully autonomous” electric vehicle priced at US$25,000 (RM101,500). The newly-minted world’s richest person said that the company was planning to do so within three years, meaning that the car is a year ahead of schedule if the report is accurate.

All this is tied into a recent report stating that Tesla is looking for a design director to lead its Chinese design studio, which will develop cars that fit local tastes. But the new model won’t be confined to the Chinese market, with Musk’s comments last year suggesting that it will also be sold globally.

“I think something that would be super cool would be to create a China design and engineering centre to actually design an original car in China for worldwide consumption. I think this would be very exciting,” the South African multi-billionaire said.

The new car will likely make use of the new tabless 4680 battery cell design, which is claimed to offer five times the energy density and six times the power of current battery technology, resulting in a 16% increase in range. This form factor is cheaper and simpler to build, which is key to driving down the cost of the final product without sacrificing range.

No technical details have been released just yet, but given that Musk wants to create a “compelling” EV at this price, expect the range of the starter model to still be class-leading. While the report on the car’s expedited lead time is encouraging, Tesla is known to be extremely optimistic when it comes to timeframes for its upcoming models, so take it with a pinch of salt.