US electric vehicle maker Tesla presented the keys to the first eight owners of the Model S car in Australia on Tuesday, and announced details of its first super-charged network along the east coast of the country.
The first two super-charging stations will be at the St Leonards (northern Sydney) retail and service store, which opens its doors on Wednesday, and at the Star Casino in Sydney.
A network will be built in 2015, linking Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and providing the 500km-range Tesla Model S with fast-charging stations every 200kms or so. The stations can charge 50 per cent within 20 minutes.
The network will be extended to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in 2016. Tesla confirmed that where possible, the super-charging stations will be powered by solar. It is yet to reveal the exact locations, but Goulburn and Albury Wodonga, and oner towns on the way, are certainties. (Click on graph to enlarge)
The first Australian recipients of the Model S at the launch event at Star Casino were internet entrepreneur Simon Hackett, Andew Leighton, Cameron Brown, John Wall, James Taylor, David Bornstein, oil industry executive Arthur Nommensen, Matthew Baird and David Higginbottom.
Solar pioneer David Mills was to receive his on Tuesday but was away and will collect his next week. We interview him on this story to see why he is using Tesla to test his theories about the energy home of the future, with solar and storage.
As for the other proud owners, and would-be owners, it was hardly surprising that they should be so gushing about their new Model S (price over $100,000, some of them close to $200,000), but it was interesting to see what motivated some of the buyers.
The Canadian-born Leighton, the head of international paper giant Norske Skog in Australia, said he bought the Tesla because he fell in love with its technology. He described it as the most innovative automobile to com out of America since the Ford Model T.
“It will revolutionise cars and I want to be part of that,” Leighton told RenewEconomy.
“I am more of a tech guy, more a sports car enthusiast. I was looking at an Audi RS5, but chose this. I am buying a very high performance car that happens to be electric, rather than saying I wanted to go electric.”
So, will this turn Leighton green?
“I am green. But if you ask most people if they are green, if they go to the supermarket and pay more, most people wouldn’t. I am willing to pay more because this is a performance product. As it happens, the Tesla accelerates quicker than the BMW and Audi, and it costs less.
“That’s the brilliance of their strategy, they have gone to higher end, and make it a great car, and now they can move down the chain with an everyday car.”
He, like David Mills and others, will charge the car with solar, as soon as he gets a system.
David Griffin, the head of development at listed renewable energy company Infigen Energy, said he was not a car buff at all, but he was won over after having a test drive two months ago.
“It is a phenomenal machine. It is not a car, it is a machine,” he told RenewEconomy.
“There are so many elements that attractive to me – fuel security, getting off liquid fuels. The average Tesla buyer would have zero interest of consuming electricity from fossil fuels, and we are in process of installing solar (his home renovations will be “loaded to eyeballs with solar)”
Griffin will be dumping his “horribly large SUV” for the Tesla, which he expects to get next August. “It gives me that self sufficiency. It is clean and I defy anyone to drive a Tesla and not feel the future.”