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Downloading the sun

Downloading the sun


Tesla Superchargers sounds like the kind of car toy I would have had for Christmas as a kid in the Eighties, but this one is for real. No one on the planet could help but be impressed by Elon Musk. As the man behind Tesla Motors, Space X, Solar City and founder of PayPal he is a visionary with attitude, and in my opinion is getting a lot right when it comes to the next generation, electric and beyond.

My father-in law-lives in Den Haag, Holland, and as you would expect his community is tidy, clean and, well, European. His neighbour is a surgeon who commutes daily to the local hospital in his Tesla, and on a recent visit I couldn’t help admire its sleek lines and luxury build quality. It compares with any luxury brand and is extraordinarily fast, which of course creeps up on you because it’s electric.

The Dutch Government offered a subsidy on electric vehicles, which put a knife to the not insignificant price of a Tesla, encouraging the surgeon to buy this beautiful car. It seems many others have been equally tempted, so now the government has withdrawn the deal, because when it came to the Tesla it was too successful. I guess they never imagined the end result of their electric razor campaign would be so conspicuous. It suits green politicians to paint big cars as gas guzzlers and therefore electric cars should be little and modest. But for me this car represents a really interesting gear change on the whole electric journey. Recent rumours have it that BMW have been talking to Tesla about body parts, so that must mean the product is being taken seriously at the heart of quality vehicle manufacturing, and why can’t electric appeal to the luxury driver?

But would it happen here? To be fair, like driving bicycles, the electric choice is easier in Holland than it is in the UK, not because there are fewer hills but because cities are less far apart. Electric and long distance have never gone well together. So when you think that Tesla is making its mark in the USA on an interstate agenda you have to sit up and take notice. It works because Elon is essentially a science-fiction obsessive with the money to live his dreams. Dreams that include creating a new human colony fed by 8,000 space migrants a year to Mars, as well as forcing the global shutdown of nuclear and fire-fuelled power stations as consumers switch to his solar utility foundation. It seems his commercial thinking is simplistic and solutions are straight out of a Marvel magazine. If you want to transport people to Mars you need to draw up the plans for re-usable and cheap space rockets, and if you want to find an alternative energy source why not focus on using the energy of the sun which is after all a free resource to whoever can secure the infrastructure to deliver its power to the end user.

In the case of driving electric this means solar-powered refuelling stations set out on national grid formations. Tesla Superchargers allow Model S owners to travel for free between cities along well travelled highways in North America. The Supercharger plug-in provides half a charge in as little as 20 minutes and are strategically placed to allow owners to drive from station to station with minimal stops.

Personally I still think the challenge for electric is always going to be the re-charge. Pulling into your BR, Shell, Tesco and five minutes at the pump is a very easy process. Plugging in to the domestic grid, especially if you live in a city is far from easy. Another issue for the company car driver is fuel subsidy. How exactly does the company reimburse electricity fuel charge and where will the government stand on that taxable benefit? But the awkward feeling for greens that you’re just moving the pollution from the pump to the power station is rubbed by Superchargers, because you really are downloading the sun.


MARSHALL LEASING LTD is a company registered in England and Wales under company number 156897, whose registered office is situated at Bow Bells House, 1 Bread Street, London EC4M 9BE


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