One of those elusive Tesla Model 3's is driving around in... Minnesota?

Only Tesla employees and 'friends of the company' have been issued their Model 3s. One of them's driving around in the Twin Cities suburbs.

Only Tesla employees and 'friends of the company' have been issued their Model 3s. One of them's driving around in the Twin Cities suburbs. Leo Lui

Some 500,000 Americans are waiting for their Tesla Model 3s. 

They've all paid $1,000 just for the right to someday own a cool car. Lately, that day seems further and further away. 

The number of pre-orders filed with the company indicates just how much demand there is for an all-electric car without a luxury price. When the Tesla Model S debuted in 2012, it had a base price of $60,000, without any special features or sweet Tesla gadgetry. 

The Tesla Model 3 starts at $35,000, and it's supposed to change the way people think about electric cars, period... oh, and also change how they think about Tesla, and its much-lauded owner, Elon Musk. Here's a video explaining the hype.

Cool! So, where are they?

Back in July, Tesla gave out the first 30 Model 3's to company employees, and a few "close friends of the company" are said to have received the cars as well. Since then, Tesla fans have been by turns frustrated by reports of slow production (from July through September, Tesla manufactured only 260 Model 3's) and thrilled by unexpected sightings Teslas out on the streets as opposed to their laptop screens.

Such was the recent experience of Leo Lui, a software consultant who lives in Burnsville. Lui had always loved Tesla's Model S and Model X makes, but not their prices. The Model 3 had the same great look, at a far more affordable price. He remembers vividly March 31, 2016, the day Tesla first started taking reservations for the Model 3. 

"I was one of many crazy people standing in line that morning to pre-order a car sight unseen."

Liu's enthusiasm has not waned. Last week Tuesday, as he drove home from work, Liu pulled up at the stop light off the France Avenue exit in Bloomington. Liu looked around and saw it: A Model 3, just up in front of him, waiting for some inexplicable reason at the same suburban stoplight as Leo Liu. He grabbed his phone and shot a photo for evidence, later uploading it to a Reddit thread for Tesla fans.

"I would have lost my shit," one commenter wrote, while another confirmed there had been "a few spottings of a white [Model] 3 in MN for the last 3-4 weeks."

For someone like Liu, glimpsing one of these vehicular unicorns in the wild is like staring directly into a brighter future.

"I think a lot of us Tesla fans just believe in what Elon Musk and Tesla are trying to do," Liu says, "and think electric vehicles are the way to go if we want to create a sustainable future. Renewable energy is the future and with a brand like Tesla, hopefully it can decelerate our dependency on non-renewable energy."

For now, he and his fellow fans will have to content themselves with those rare moments they discover they're sharing the road with the car that might change the world.