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Tesla boss Musk goads major brands to do more

Driven: Tesla boss Elon Musk is pushing the pure EV company further into electric land but says other manufacturers are being distracted from alternative energy development by sinking fuel prices.

Elon Musk urges car-makers to persevere with EV development despite low oil price

15 Jan 2015

TESLA CEO Elon Musk says major car-makers are not moving fast enough with the development of rival electric vehicle (EV) models, and that the price of oil should not drive the progress of alternative energy.

Speaking at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, Tesla’s co-founder said that a recent dip in crude oil prices could stall the progress of new zero-emissions vehicles but the big brands must resist temptation to slow development.

Without significant and sustained action for cars that do not rely on fossil fuels, Musk warned that climate change would continue unabated, but believes major players can still make a difference.

Speaking to the North American conference hosted by Automotive News, Mr Musk said EV development incentives must be found during periods of cheaper fuel.

“We can’t rely on scarcity to drive the price of oil and gas and rely on that to be an adequate forcing function,” he said. “So we have to figure out how to do it without high oil and gas prices.

“Invest in electric vehicles, you won't regret it.”

With prices falling to about US$45 ($A55) per barrel, the cheapest fuel in six years could persuade drivers to stick with petrol and diesel power for the foreseeable future, with the resulting downturn in EV and hybrid sales having a knock-on effect to new vehicle development.

Despite welcoming competition in the pure EV segment, Mr Musk has been outspoken in his criticism of other forms of alternative energy, describing the fuel cells under heavy development by other manufacturers as “fool cells”.

Other reports suggest Musk's concerns may be unfounded and low oil prices might ultimately stimulate alternative energy research instead.

Oil companies sink vast amounts of cash into new drilling ventures but the significant investment is pinned to a predicted return once the oil is out of the ground.

If the price slips below the expected value, the investment is no longer considered profitable and the crude stays underground.

Ironically, the current low price of fuel could threaten many planned drilling or exploration projects that hinge on a higher price per barrel. The result of canceled or postponed reserves could see the cost of oil soar, reinvigorating research into alternative energy.

With or without the participation of other manufacturers, Tesla is continuing its electric charge, with a new more affordable US$35,000 ($A42,700) Tesla 3 on the way and “a few million cars” predicted to be on the road by 2025.

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