Tesla is often called the ‘Apple’ of the automobile industry and its coming to India ! Elon Musk-promoted Tesla Motors announced that it was open to bookings from India for its latest ‘Model 3’ car that is due for global induction in late 2017.
Motor enthusiasts in the US waited in line for hours to be the first to book Model 3 by paying just $1000. The company has reportedly received bookings for 135,000 cars and $13.5 million in booking amount, within hours of launch. That translates to a whopping $4.7 billion of car sales! And all for a car that no has seen or tested, and whose detailed technical features are not known.
That is the kind of faith and enthusiasm that Tesla has managed to generate worldwide. It reminds one of an Apple launch, just that this one is much bigger. Many international car enthusiasts booked the car online, which included three Indians.
Other countries, where Model 3 is being launched, include New Zealand, Spain, Slovakia, Brazil, South Africa, Ireland and Singapore.
It may be recalled that PM Modi visited the Tesla factory during his high profile visit to the US in 2015 and showed interest in their electric cars as also their domestic power storage system – Powerwall.
What is it about Model 3 that has had the world so excited?
Firstly, there is a global awareness on the need to move away from fossil-based fuels that power today’s vehicles. Tesla has been working on producing a technically feasible and commercially viable electric car and has pioneered several technologies in the run up to Model 3.
Earlier, the company had launched Model S and Model X, both of which were pioneering efforts and found niche buyers for them. But these are expensive and the technology still needed to be improved for wider acceptance and use.
Model 3 has come up with the right balance between technology, functionality, design and price, and with this car, the company hopes to do what Ford’s Model T did to the automobile industry, a century ago.
The features that make Model 3 stand out:
- Mileage: 215 miles / 346 kms per charge
- Supercharging capable
- Pick-up: 0-60 in under 6 sec
- Seating: 5 adults
- Safety: Designed with safety features
- Autopilot safety features
Superchargers – technology with a difference
What sets the Tesla apart from other electric vehicles is the ability to charge the vehicle quickly, in a matter of minutes rather than hours, and to store that energy to deliver higher mileage per charge.
The Supercharger developed by Tesla is the best performing electric vehicle (EV) charging technology and is currently designed to charge Tesla’s Model S. The unique architecture enables the chargers to work in parallel to deliver 120 kW of direct current (DC) power to the battery.
In order to deliver maximum power for rapid acceleration to the front and rear motors, the cell chemistry in the battery, along with a rapid cooling system, is optimized to deliver maximum performance, making it the most efficient technology available for EVs today.
Battery charging process
It is as simple as plugging in a connector to the Supercharging station and the charger takes over to rapidly transfer charge to the battery. It is interesting to note that the battery charging process follows the principle of filling up a glass of water. One rapidly fills up a glass of water till around 80% and then slows the flow as it nears top-up, in order to ensure there is no spill. Similarly, the Supercharger charges 80% of battery in around 40 minutes, while to reach 100% charge it takes around 75 minutes.
A 30-minute charge gives around 170 miles of coverage or 273 km. That’s more than adequate to reach the next Supercharging station in the US. Model 3 offers to go 346 km on a single full charge. That’s usually enough to reach another city within a neighbouring state in India.
Currently, there are 613 Supercharger stations with 3,628 Superchargers in the US, with several more being added with each passing month.
Opportunities and challenges for Tesla in India
India is one of the fastest growing automobile markets in the world, where the demand for all segments of cars is growing. With increasing incomes and the desire to adopt newer technologies, especially by the younger generation, Tesla has a massive opportunity for taking a first mover advantage in India for electric vehicles.
The Indian buyer is increasingly conscious and concerned about growing pollution levels caused by fossil fuel-based vehicles. However, in the absence of affordable options, customers continue to buy petrol/diesel-based vehicles. Hybrids have been introduced but have not been able to generate wide interest, mainly on account of high costs.
Strictly speaking, Tesla will not be the first EV car in India, as we already have our own homegrown electric car in Reva. But this car has not been popular due to lack of public charging stations and poor design acceptance. It still needs to be charged overnight at home using regular electric charging points.
Tesla sees an opportunity in this most exciting emerging automobile market. But for it to truly succeed, it will need to first establish adequate Supercharging stations in the main cities and subsequently ensure an adequate coverage along highways.
This could be a challenge on account of absence of laws and regulations for public electric charging operations. Erratic and fluctuating power supply, especially in highways, is another challenge for the company.
If Tesla is planning to introduce its Model 3 by the latter half of 2017 then it has to get its act together in India real fast. Tie-ups with private electricity generating and distribution companies maybe the way forward but subsequently, they will have to also work with public sector utilities to ensure maximum coverage.
But one thing is sure, India is now open to electric vehicle technology and if Tesla is serious about India, it may well start exploring a Make in India version to bring down the cost and increase market penetration.
For now, the few imported cars that will make their entry in 2017 will continue to remain ‘neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’.