Tesla Motors: Game changing electric cars

Tesla Motors: Game changing electric cars
Tesla Motors: Game changing electric cars

By Alex Choros

Driving the Tesla Roadster only has one disadvantage, according to Internode co-founder and NBN non-executive director Simon Hackett: he can no longer leave a car park in a hurry. "The car, almost invariably, has drawn a crowd by the time I get back to it".

Tesla Motors have succeeded in turning the electric car into a status symbol. Those with a keen eye would caught a glimpse of the Roadster into Tony Stark's garage in the first Iron Man film.

Tesla's Roadster isn't just a status symbol. The sports car was not only the company's first electric car, but also the first battery-only electric vehicle to have a range greater than 320 kilometres.

But more importantly, the Roadster is both reliable and fun to drive. Hackett described his experiences with the electric sports car as "materially different" to driving a car with an internal combustion engine.

"The big differences are immediacy of response and its amazing flat torque curve," Hackett said. "As you are pushing your right foot down, the car is pushing you backward into the seat; back off, and the vehicle starts to regenerative brake instantly in response." He described the sensation as "fluid, in terms of control speed and power".

"It makes the process of driving a fuel-burning car seem sluggish by comparison."

Hackett has driven his Roadster every day since he first got it in 2009 and says he hasn't had a single issue: "they just never break down - there's simply not much in there to break". He attributed this to the car's lacking of moving parts; the Roadster has only six - including the motor and the wheels.

Tesla are clearly doing something right; Hackett's previous car of choice was a Ferrari 308. "I really enjoyed the Ferrari when I had it," Hackett said, "but then I got my first Tesla Roadster - and that marked pretty much the last day I bothered with driving the Ferrari."

"The responsiveness of a high performance electric vehicle is just totally addictive, less hard work than the old Ferrari was, and blows it away in performance terms as well."

While there is nothing that says "environmentally conscious" about the Roadster's look, Tesla have toned down appearances for its successor, the Model S, making it a bit more comparable to a Maserati, BMW or Mercedes Benz.

The Model S is best described as Tesla's sedan offering. Despite trading the sporty two-door body for a more conventional five-door lift back, it’s a ride that will certainly still turn heads. Jay Z, renown for rapping about Mercedes Benz, recently shared a photo of himself standing next to his black, "murdered out" Model S.

Despite the subtler appearance, Hackett says the Model S "is a game changer": "the Model S is what happens when Silicon Valley re-invents the car industry with a clean sheet of paper". "The Tesla Roadster proved that Tesla could build an electric drivetrain," Hackett said, "the Model S proved that they can build a whole car - a brilliant car."

And that is exactly what Tesla set out to do, according to Simon Sproule, the company's Vice President of Communications. "The company set very aggressive goals for the Model S," Sproule said, "it's not intended to just be a great electric car, but the best car - period."

Sproule said that by making careful considerations in regards to aesthetics, performance and power "you remove the notion that an electric car has to be low range or compromised in some form".

Sproule described the Model S as "a very modern statement of engineering". "If the car is a status symbol, I think it’s a reflection of how consumers feel about the product."

Hackett is first in line to receive a Model S when Tesla launch in Australia later this year, and according to Sproule, he won't have to wait much longer. While Sproule was not able to provide specifics, he said that the first Model S deliveries should be made in Spring.

"We are in the process of identifying both store locations and service locations, and also potential supercharger locations. When we deliver the first cars to customers in Australia, it is important that we have the full service capabilities ready and operational."

Tesla's Australian expansion will be almost identical to the way in which the company operates in every other market. Potential customers will be able to go to a Tesla store, book a test drive, and then - if they wish - make an order. All of Tesla's vehicles are completely customisable and built to order. If a customer doesn't feel like visiting a retail outlet, it is possible to order and customise a Model S directly from Tesla's website.

The price an Australian will pay for a Model S is very similar to price in the United States, adjusted for exchange, tax and shipping. An entry level Model S will begin at AUD$91,400 - excluding tax and registration costs. Cars to customers in overseas markets typically arrive in a 8 to 12 week window.

While Sproule was unable to discuss the number of Australians who have pre-ordered a Model S, he noted that local "interest in the Model S is very encouraging". "Australia has long been the market in the world that has the highest number of manufacturers and name plates on sale," Sproul said, "we're really excited to be in it".

In order to facilitate long distance travel, Tesla have been deploying supercharger stations across the United States, Asia and Europe. These free-to-use stations can charge up a Model S an additional 240 kilometres of range in approximately 30 minutes. The company are in active discussions with landholders in regards to potential locations.

"After the first deliveries in Spring, we aim to have supercharging installed and running in multiple locations," Sproule said. Sproule provided the example of the UK rollout - the first Model S was delivered in June, and supercharging was available the very same week. "By the end of the year, we will deploy enough super chargers in the UK to enable to owner of a 60khw vehicle to drive anywhere within Great Britain. By the end of 2015, the entire of UK and Northern Ireland."

"Australian provides its own unique challenges due to the geography of the country," Sproule said. Due to how spread out the nation's population is, a supercharger rollout strategy will be developed in regards to population density. Sproule says that high traffic routes such as Melbourne to Sydney and Sydney to Canberra will be the first priority.

Despite the company’s current focus on the high-end, Sproule says Tesla's strategy "is not to only sell premium vehicles; the absolute objective is to introduce vehicles into the mass market". However, Telsa's mid-level Sedan, the Model 3 (previously known as Model E) is still at least three years away.

"Australia has really great potential for Tesla," Sproule said. "We're really looking forward to being started, opening our stores, service centres and superchargers, and getting people into our cars".

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