What began as a passion project to reduce emissions and push the boundaries of automotive technology by Elon Musk, one of the founders of PayPal, Tesla Motors’ cars are fast becoming a fashion and lifestyle statement: they are on track to make 40,000 cars this year, and Forbes estimates that, with their upcoming SUV, could push beyond the 100,000 mark by 2016.
This is quite a feat with the range beginning at over £50,000, topping out with the P85D plus options at over £90,000. Standing in the sleek, modern and plush showroom-come-retail outlet in London’s Westfield shopping mall, it felt like Ferrari and Apple had made a baby, and that baby was Tesla: a fusion of passion and driving with unbridled technological prowess. According to my source at the wheel, brisk trade is being done.
The car has no direct competitor: a luxury, fully electric vehicle doing things most cars couldn’t dream of, with celebrity endorsement to boot. While Mercedes run their Bluetech diesel technology on their sedans and S-classes, Lexus push their hybrid technology and Porsche’s e-Hybrid makes its way from the 918 Hypercar down the range, none can come close, at this stage anyway, to matching the performance in line with Tesla’s green credentials.
It seems the automotive industry is playing catch up, and where breakthroughs used to be in Stuttgart and Modena, Palto Alto, much like in the technology world, is fast turning into a hotbed of automotive engineering. Google’s recently exhibited self-driving car only adds to this developing picture.
I spoke with Jonathan, a property tycoon who splits his time between London and LA, about electric hot-rods. ‘In LA, everyone is now driving a Tesla. People are trading in their Range Rovers for Teslas, it’s got the same sort of cachet.
‘I got one when they launched in London and honestly, it’s like switching from analogue to digital. Having had Bentleys, Porsches and Ferraris, I can tell you there is nothing quite like it.’
The fact that it comes number two in Autocar’s top luxury saloons says everything about the versatility and luxury this groundbreaking car offers. Most amazing is the ‘iPad-on-steroids’ centre console which controls everything from the navigation to the air suspension to updates on the status of the battery and rapid internet capabilities. Dozens of Tesla charging points are being installed across the UK, allowing people to drive beyond the cars 200-300 mile range.
The company was only incorporated in 2003 and clearly not only has lofty ambitions, but is hellbent on achieving them. With no company car tax, thousands saved on petrol and no congestion charge for those owners in London, expect to hear more of the electronic whoosh of a Tesla as it glides beyond others into a fully electric future.