The US-based Tesla Motors has now fixed the official Australia launch of its already iconic electric vehicle for December 9 – in a development that might reshape the discussion about the clean energy future in the country.
Tesla, which expects to sell 33,000 EVs this year and is building a $5 billion battery manufacturing plant in Nevada, has been planning its release for months. It will be the first major release of an EV in Australia.
The launch is set for Sydney, and is expected to feature the first deliveries of the Tesla Model S – which won car of the year in the US last year – and announcements about its first show-rooms, its fast-charging network, and its broader plans for the country.
Tesla’s EVs have become much admired, but the company is also significant for what it will likely achieve in reducing the costs of battery storage – the so-calld “gigafactory” is foreast to lower the cost of batteries by at least half – and the integration of EVs with solar panels and storage and the grid.
As we noted in this piece a few weeks ago, there is considerable irony in Tesla launching in Australia just as the conventional auto companies pull the plug on domesic manufacturing – with Ford, General Motors Holden, Toyota and Mitsubishi going or gone.
Motoring.com.au reported that Tesla talent scouts held an interview open house in Melbourne, looking for engineers regarding a wide variety of automotive features, from crash and cooling systems to body and interior engineers.
Tesla has already priced the Model S in Australia at just over $97,000 to start though, although it says that will be competitive agains the BMW and Audi cars that it is competing against.
As we also reported, the first delivery of Tesla’s will go to solar-powered homes, and its super-charging network will likely be solar-powered too.
That would be a tremendous demonstration of how electric cars can be 100 per cent renewable energy powered, and hopefully could change the debate about what is possible, admirable and affordable about renewable energy and new technologies in Australia, and how and why the energy market will change from a centralized fossil fuel grid to a decentralized, decarbonised model.
Tesla plans to sell 50,000 of its Model S cars worldwide in 2015, and sees annual production rising more than 50 per cent probably for several years to follow. Its share price is also up 50 per cent this year, and despite its comparatively tiny sales volumes, its market capitalization is already more than $30 billion, more than half the worth of GM.
That is partly on perception, and what analysts believe is possible in a motoring industry dominated in the future by EVs, and their interaction with renewables and the grid.
Earlier this year, Tesla launched in China, which it expects to be its biggest market, and has a 400 –station supercharging network planned and partly built.
Tesla plans to introduce its next model, the Tesla X SUV in 2015, and follow in 2017 with the Model 3 smaller car.
It is also in Japan, Europe (sales are huge in Norway), and elsewehere in Asia. It has more than 200 supercharging stations in US, Asia and Europe. And it has upset the established industry because of its unique sales strategy – direct from store rather than dealerships – and because it does not need a massive auto-parts industry to support it (its motors have 30 moving parts compered to more than 3,000 in petrol vehicles, and it updates through the web, kind of like an iPhone on wheels)
Tesla said in November that the Model S received the maximum-possible five-star safety rating from the European New Car Assessment Program.
It’s the only car this year to receive that designation as well as five stars in every subcategory of ratings from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
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