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Tesla to take charge of change

Electric dreams to reality: Tesla opened its first Australian store and service centre in Sydney this week and plans to connect Brisbane and Melbourne by 2016 with fast-charging units, but there will be challenges ahead.

Local marketing boss reveals the challenges that lay ahead in Australia for Tesla

Tesla logo11 Dec 2014

By RICHARD BERRY

AS TESLA embarks on its pioneering charging station and retail plan in Australia, the electric vehicle company’s local marketing boss has admitted to a few challenges on the road ahead.

Tesla used a glitzy launch event at Sydney’s The Star to inform the media of its plan to connect Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne with fast-charging stations known as Superchargers by the end of 2016 and outline locations for dealerships, or ‘stores’ in Tesla speak.

When asked about the biggest hurdles Tesla faces here, the company’s local marketing and communications manager Heath Walker said one of the major issues was overcoming Australian buyer’s apathy towards electric vehicles.

“I’m hoping we’re going to change the mindsets of Australians,” he said.

“Range anxiety should and does happen with petrol. It doesn’t change with EV.

The nicer thing is you don’t have to stop off at a petrol station.

The limited ranges of EVs and the lack of charging infrastructure have deterred buyers for years, however Tesla plans to install 16 free-to-use fast charging units, or ‘Superchargers’ at 200km intervals on the eastern seaboard connecting Brisbane to Melbourne by 2016.

Mr Walker said home chargers would also be available.

“So if you come home every night, plug in, 95 per cent of your charging will be done at your house and for the additional five per cent we are investing in a Supercharging network in Australia that is free. So it’s free long distance travel for the life of your car.” Mr Walker said expanding the network while ensuring customers received a high level of service and support in a country as big as Australia posed another challenge.

“Melbourne and Sydney is a really good place to start because that’s where the majority of the population is, but we’re such a big country we need to be able to pan out.

“We’re already getting requests from Brisbane and Perth, we’re selling cars there. It’s just how do we then facilitate the ownership experience to what we expect of ourselves.

“We’re seeing social media demand already. It’s about how quickly we can move and the nice thing about Tesla is we are agile and so we can move – but it’s just how fast.”

Mr Walker said the Australian government had yet to offer any infrastructure support and while it, along with any incentive scheme to encourage the uptake of EVs would be welcomed, Tesla planned to build the charging network itself.

“The local teams haven’t spoken to the government yet,” he said.

“I think that if we show that we’ve got infrastructure in the country and we’re releasing superchargers then we can establish a conversation. And it may not be just a Tesla conversation either, there’s other EV people that want to get involved to help that adoption.”

While Tesla has had a presence in Australia since 2010 when it launched the Roadster, the company opened its first Australian store and service centre in the Sydney suburb of St Leonards this week.

This was accompanied by the arrival of the long-awaited Model S sedan, nine of which were delivered to their owners at a gala event at The Star casino.

It was also announced that a second retail store based in Sydney will open plus another in Melbourne’s Chadstone shopping centre to support the city’s main service centre facility to be built next year.

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