There’s no hiding from the fact that the days of combustion engined cars are numbered and with more and more manufacturers are turning to hybrid tech to power their cars with many also going full electric. But there’s one name that stands out from the rest with regards to the future of electric driving – Tesla.
Tesla first came on the scene back in 2005 with their Roadster model, basically a Lotus Elise body with an electric motor, but like all things first of their kind, it wasn’t exactly a huge success. Its combination of poor battery life lack of practical space meant that it was hardly going to appeal to the masses. With this in mind, Tesla went back to the drawing board and decided to come up with a new strategy. There were already a few hybrid and small electric cars creeping their way on to the market, but there were no fully electric top end, luxury cars. This was Tesla’s chance to make a name for themselves, a chance for them to wow the masses by building a zero-emission car that could out-drag most super saloons. And that’s exactly what they did with the Model S. The Model S came out in 2012 and it was met with great reviews. It had beautiful styling, a luxurious hand-stitched interior and acceleration numbers that left cars like the Mercedes S63 AMG for dead.
With the success of the Model S at the forefront of Tesla’s mind, they then set out to try and penetrate the fastest growing sector in the automotive trade – SUVs. More and more manufacturers are starting to focus their attention on the ever-expanding SUV market, so if Tesla really want to make their mark in the car world, they needed to jump on the “Chelsea Tractor” bandwagon. Which they did with the absolute tech-gasm that is the Model X.
Gullwing rear doors, a never-ending windscreen, a central display bigger than my TV, 7 seats, all wheel drive and the ability to move from 0 to 62 mph in just 2.9 seconds… Elon Musk and his band of merry engineers have well and truly re-written the rule book on these normally huge, unwieldy road hippos.
Obviously, like the Model S, there are a few different levels of trim offering up a variety of different battery ranges, performance figures and tech options and with prices starting at £75,000 for a bottom of the ladder Model, you are well and truly nipping at the heels of the likes of Porsche’s Cayenne, the BMW X5 and the Range Rover Sport, however I don’t think there really is a fair comparison at the moment between these mainstream school run heroes and the 4 wheeled iPad, not yet anyway.
Tesla still has a long way to go if it wants to become a household name, and I have all the faith in the world that they can eventually amount to that. However, at the moment they are more like kit car, or small production unit in comparison with its target audience (especially in the UK, I things are probably quite different over the pond!) Think of them as like a Morgan of the electric 4×4 world. With a Morgan, you have to really want one. You don’t go on a website and do a price comparison between a Porsche Boxster, an Audi TTRS and so on, you know that in your heart, all you want is that Morgan. Even if on paper, the other cars are better. I feel that way with the Tesla at the moment. They’re still a very new brand and as impressive as the vehicles are, they still have a lot to do to draw your company MDs away from their big comfy popular branded trucks. It’s a shame really as when you sit in a Tesla, you feel like you really are sitting in the future and I have no doubt that a lot of the other cars we see on the road now will be similar inside in years to come, but it takes a lot to introduce an entirely new brand with an entirely new, relatively untried method of propulsion to the mainstream. There is another major problem with fully electric cars in the UK. I live, admittedly in a small “City”, but it still is a city with thousands of commuters and travelling workers. In my entire city, there are 5 charging points. Even when a brand new cinema complex with restaurants and parking for a few hundred cars was green-lit there was no mention of charging ports and now it’s all complete and open, there isn’t a single charging station. It’s like the councils are completely blind to the requirement. Another example is my in-laws. They used to live in Chepstow near Bristol and bought themselves a lovely new Nissan Leaf and then moved to Borth, just up from Aberystwyth and they literally cannot drive it from their house to ours in Cambridgeshire because there aren’t enough stations. It’s not even a new thing, electric cars and plug-in hybrids are all over the place now, so why are we not doing enough to expand the infrastructure in towns to support this?
I am actually driving the Model X next week, so will have a much more in-depth review coming along after. For now though, I can say that my initial impressions of the Model X are good, but it still feels a bit like those whacky concept cars you used to see at International Motor Shows but I think that as Tesla’s model range expands and the demand for more clean vehicles rises, we will start to see a lot more cars like these on the roads.