Democratising the Electric Car
Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk discusses forthcoming plans for Europe, and why the UK will be one of its most important markets.
How large do you predict the European market will be for the Model S?
Our hope for Europe is that we sell a comparable number of cars to America, and we expect to increase our activities in Europe quite a bit. One of the things we’re in the process of doing is expanding our final assembly operations in the Netherlands, and we also expect to most likely establish an R&D centre in the UK next year or the year after.
It really depends on the volume of cars we’re able to sell. Beyond final assembly once we get our production above half a million cars per year it makes sense to anticipate that, to have a factory in Europe and one in China.
How important is the UK market to Tesla?
I think the UK is likely to be one of our most significant markets, probably top five. So far our advanced orders are very strong in the UK and if you ordered a car now you’d only receive it in four months.
So something we need to work on is ramping up our production to supply UK customers in a timely manner, and we’re also putting a lot of effort into Supercharger infrastructure. We want to have southern England covered by the end of this year and all of the British Isles by next year, along with Service Centres to go with that.
I think the UK will be our top market in Europe. At the moment our top market is Norway, but I’d imagine the UK, with a much larger population, will outsell Norway.
Do you ever plan to monetise the Supercharger network?
It doesn’t cost that much to charge a car, so we can either be chintzy and charge people a few pounds, or we can charge them nothing and build it into the cost of the car. So we’d rather not have you get your wallets out for some small amount of money every time, we feel confident that we can maintain the cost of Superchargers over time.
Also we want to add solar power and stationary battery packs so, once you factor in the capital cost and once you have the solar power to charge the cars, you’re really talking about maintenance costs which are very small. Usually we don’t pay any rent, in some cases we’ve actually been paid to have a Supercharger there, and electricity costs are low to zero once you have solar panels and stationary battery packs. It’s just the capital costs and ongoing maintenance.
When can we expect further models?
The Model X (SUV, based on the Model S platform) will hopefully start deliveries in California in the second quarter of next year, then in right hand drive at the end of next year. Our third generation car will be about £25,000, but its true cost is less than that because you don’t have to pay for petrol, which is expensive, and there will be some Government support, so it might be comparable to a £15-20,000 car.
We want to democratise electric cars and make them viable, but at the moment they’re more expensive than we would like.