Fleet News

Tesla could widen EV technology’s appeal to sceptical fleets

An electric vehicle (EV) which ends range anxiety could give the segment’s sales a much-needed boost and persuade fleets to look again at the technology.

Tesla has unveiled a fully-electric executive saloon called the Model S, which offers a 300-mile range on a single charge – three times more than the 100 miles typically offered by other EVs currently on the market.

A right-hand drive version will be available in the UK towards the end of next year. Pricing starts at $50,000 (£31,000) in the US for a lower-powered entry level model, capable of 150 miles before recharging, and rises to $70,000 (£44,000) for the full-blown 300-mile range car.

A spokesman said transportation costs and the need to tailor the vehicle for the UK market would push the price up a little, although the car will qualify for the Government’s £5,000 plug-in grant.

Expect pricing to start at just under £40,000 for the entry level car, rising to £50,000 for the extended range model –not including the £5,000 grant. In comparison, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Hybrid is priced £39,645.

Range and price have historically proved to be a major stumbling block to the early adoption of electric vehicle technology by many fleets.

Government figures reveal that only 2,500 EVs have been registered for the plug-in grant. Corporate sales accounted for around 1,700 of these.

However, some of the country’s biggest leasing companies have told Fleet News that the Model S may widen the appeal of EVs to a mainly sceptical fleet market.

Tusker has seen some interest in EVs from fleets but has not seen it translate into actual sales.

“There is still too much uncertainty,” said Scott Lloyd, Tusker’s remarketing and project manager.

“Following the initial sales enquiry and their own research into electric cars, fleet decision makers are turned-off by the high list prices compared to alternatives, such as diesel, petrol or hybrid-engined cars.”

Tusker also highlighted concerns over the lack of range, which limits the number of real-life applications.

“Any reasonably-priced electric car that removed the issue over range anxiety and answered these concerns would certainly be viewed more favourably,” said Lloyd.

Tesla uses a new platform developed in-house to achieve such a revolutionary change in range.

The car’s chassis is laid out like a skateboard and houses a flat lithium-ion battery under the floor of the car to power a compact electric drivetrain between the rear wheels.

The Model S will launch with the most powerful 300-mile range battery, but lower capacity, cheaper units will follow, starting from 150 miles. A mid-range 230-mile unit is expected to be the biggest seller.

The most powerful battery option and performance pack offers 416bhp and 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, while the entry level model will still get you there in 5.9 seconds.

Matthew Dyer, commercial director at LeasePlan, believes the Model S’s credentials could bode well for the American manufacturer.

He said: “A 300-mile range is certainly a great selling point for a fully electric vehicle and will go a long way to combating range anxiety.”

Nigel Trotman, head of strategic consultancy at Alphabet, said: “Such a vehicle would clearly help the overall market.”

However, he warned the manufacturer would need to have “realistic aspirations” where the price was concerned.

“A totally untested and unrecognised brand coming to the UK will also have its challenges,” said Roddy Graham, LeaseDrive’s commercial director.

Tesla has employed George Blankenship, who spent six years at Apple developing and rolling out stores for the IT giant, to help raise its profile.

Instead of a dealer network, it will rely on Tesla ‘shops’ being opened in high footfall areas such as shopping centres. These are aimed to help familiarise people with the technology and handle the same mobile servicing offered on the Tesla Roadster – its first EV.

“Our goal has always been to build the best car in the world and set new standards for safety, handling, range and performance,” said Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and founder.

“We are achieving that with the Model S in North America and it’s time to introduce it to Europe.”

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  • John Hingley - 14/11/2012 12:29

    This is a truly significant and exciting development. Lack of range has been the stumbling block in the EV story thus far, so if Tesla can bring this technology to the UK soon they will be on a winner, I'm sure. I want a brochure and full technical and purchasing details a.s.a.p.

  • Andrew Wright - 15/11/2012 10:27

    I quote from the article" The most powerful battery option and performance pack offers 416bhp and 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, while the entry level model will still get you there in 5.9 seconds. And here is the problem. The general public is not ready yet for electric vehicles unless the more affluent ones can be swayed by frankly ridiculous performance figures, or the manufacturers cannot see any other way of getting then car buyer interested than by quoting them. If this car did 0 - 60 in a respectable 10 seconds, but had a 400 mile range it would make a lot more sense?

  • John Hingley - 15/11/2012 15:28

    The other two problems with this saloon concerns the price, and the excessive width. In the event of a collision would the battery pack in the floor be damaged at the sides?

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