Tesla just launched in the UAE
Tesla today began accepting online orders for its Model S and Model X in the UAE. The company’s founder and chief executive Elon Musk held a press conference at the World Government Summit in Dubai to launch his high-profile electric car brand in the Middle East.
Esquire sat front row to hear the tech billionaire outline his vision to generate and store electricity, and build transport networks to run on green energy. Tesla has already opened two Supercharging locations, in Jebel Ali and in Masdar City, with another five to follow by the end of 2017. Destination chargers are available at 26 locations across the UAE, including hotels and shopping malls, with 50 more by the end of the year.
“One of the key things about cars is the freedom to go where you want,” Musk told the audience. “And by end of this year or early next you'll be able to travel anywhere in the Gulf states.”
Musk responded gamely to a barrage of questions about the viability for electric cars in a region where the climate is harsh, petrol is cheap and environmental concerns often fall lower down the list of concerns for many residents.
When asked about how the Tesla batteries would cope with the extreme summer temperatures, he explained how testing was done in Death Valley, California, the hottest place on Earth. “We took a Tesla there in the middle of summer, along with a diesel-powered tow-truck in case it broke down… and it was the tow-truck broke down,” he joked.
In fact, he’s so confident that batteries come with an eight-year warranty.
On the question of how he saw electric cars faring against the lure of cheap petrol, he pointed out that a full recharge would cost around $10, almost a third of the price of filling a large petrol tank.
In fact his biggest concern, he said, was not the technology but rather changing behavioural patterns of his target audience. “People generally have high inertia. They want to do the same as they did last year. So it’s getting people to take a test drive, to appreciate how the car works and understand that the supercharge network is convenient and will really work for you. It's about getting a critical mass.”
When car fans are persuaded to take a test drive there is undoubtedly a lot to like about Teslas. The Model S – a four-door family car - accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in an astonishing 2.7 seconds – the fastest in the world. The Model X has also been rated as the safest, fastest and most capable sport utility vehicle on the road.
Finally, Musk outlined his vision for the future, which not only includes building electric cars, but owning the critical parts of the supply chain. He’s in the process of finishing the world’s largest building in California, to produce batteries. To give an idea of scale, eight Burj Khalifas laid next to each other would fit inside the factory.
He’s thinking big, which he thinks makes him an ideal fit for this region and the plans here to move to renewable energy. "What the UAE intends to do here is very exciting; it wants to be a beacon for sustainable energy. This may sound counter-intuitive but I actually think people will look back in the future and see it as a really smart move that will serve as an example to other countries around the world.”
The same could probably be said about Elon Musk and many of his schemes. But right now it’s all about figuring out whether we’re ready for green cars in the UAE. Because, make no mistake, he is ready to sell them to us.
Prices start from Dhs275,000 for Model S and Dhs344,000 for Model X.