Tesla’s Model three to take electrical cars to mass market, but Australians must wait
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk is hoping the launch of its more affordable Model three will take the electrical car – which has so far been a boutique product for those wanting to boost their green credentials – and break it into the mass market.
Mr Musk has proven an effective publicity machine for Tesla – whose market capitalisation is now worth more than traditional car manufacturers such as Ford or General Motors. But electrified cars constitute only 0.29 per cent, or about 540,000 vehicles, of the total one hundred eighty nine million cars registered in the United States.
Even in renewable-energy loving California – which is the epicentre of the electrified car market in the US – they make up less than one per cent of all registered vehicles in the state with a population of forty million.
California already has generous tax rebates for electrified cars and chargers for households and businesses as well as a fund to help the roll-out of public charging stations. There are one thousand five hundred charging stations in Los Angeles alone.
The much-anticipated launch of the Model three on Saturday afternoon (Friday night US time) will mark another significant chapter for Tesla following the two earlier models – the sporty-looking sedan Model S and the more family-friendly Model X.
The Model three is targeted at being a more affordable option for drivers wanting to make the big leap from petrol cars to electrified vehicles, being priced at $US35,000 ($43,900).
In Australia, the Model three could be priced at about $50,000 but this has yet to be confirmed by Telsa Australia.
Mr Musk has stated his ambition for the Model three – which has a range of three hundred fifty kilometres – to be the electrical vehicle which will capture the imagination of the broader market and attract people who have been incapable to afford the higher price tag of being eco-friendly.
Like most of the things the enigmatic Tesla founder does, there has been a lot of hype around the Model Three, with 400,000 pre-registrations for the vehicle. Each fresh Tesla release is greeted with the same enthusiasm as a product release from another Californian icon, Apple.
Tesla employees will get priority delivery of the Model three – to prize loyal staff as well as fix up any last minute issues – then those in the company’s home state of California. Those in Australia may be waiting up to two years for the arrival of the Model Three, according to a Tesla Australia spokesman.
Tesla – which has sold only 200,000 cars globally since they began production six years ago – is aiming to produce about 500,000 Model three vehicles next year, enhancing to about one million cars a year by 2020.
There are 300,000 electrified vehicles in California out of a total of thirty four million registered vehicles, including twenty five million cars, with about twenty different makers of electrified vehicles on the roads.
Tesla won’t release Australian statistics
By comparison, Australia has three thousand electrical vehicles, or 0.016 per cent, out of eighteen million registered vehicles. Tesla won’t release statistics on how many of its cars have been sold in Australia, but it’s understood to only be less than 1000.
The Californian Energy Commission is targeting vehicle emissions to help the state produce on its ambitious renewable energy target of fifty per cent by two thousand thirty and possibly one hundred per cent by 2045.
The CEC is aiming for one million zero-emission vehicles to be on the road by two thousand twenty and pushing tougher emission standards for cars and trucks to cut carbon emissions.
Californian Energy Commission deputy director of renewable energy Courtney Smith said California had led the way on combating smog and air pollution since the 1950s with a waiver to permit it to set tougher standards than at the national level.
They also want to proceed to forge the way for all zero-emissions cars, not just electrical vehicles, but hydrogen-fuel cars as well.
“In the 1950s we had a terrible smog problem in LA because of all the cars we were driving so we needed to do something,” Ms Smith said. “California established an Environment Protection Agency before the federal government ever had one. So when they created their own EPA we were effectively grand-fathered in.
“Under the Clean Air Act there is a waiver that permits us to have a waiver for federal standards and set our own. We can go above and beyond the national standards.”
Matt Petersen, chief executive of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator who was formerly the very first chief sustainability officer for the City of Los Angeles, said making electrical vehicles more affordable and continuing the roll-out of charging stations was critical to cutting emissions.
“Our objective [at the City of Los Angeles] was to get one thousand charging stations and we got to 1500,” Mr Petersen said. “We were investing in public parking garages and working with the private sector to get charging stations installed where people worked.”
The Turnbull government is also looking at targeting vehicle emissions as a key strategy to tackle Australia’s carbon emissions, but given the reaction to headlines of a “carbon tax on cars” last month, it is treading cautiously.
Electrical charging stations are fairly common in California, at shopping centres and large office buildings – which is helping the roll-out of EVs.
The Tesla factory at Fremont, north-east of San Francisco, was in utter lock-down before Saturday’s launch. AFR Weekend was permitted to drive the Model S (which retails for about $120,000) or the five to seven seat Model X ($150,000) in surrounding streets, but the test track was off-limits to last-minute testing of vehicles.
Tesla and Mr Musk have a lot railing on the release of the Model Trio. Tesla has had a rocky rail on the sharemarket and even tho’ it’s market capitalisation is now $US56 billion – higher than Ford ($US43.9 billion) and General Motors ($US53.Trio billion) – investors and analysts still have their doubts about whether growth is sustainable.
The reporter travelled to California with the assistance of The Climate Council.