Tesla is a relatively new company in comparison to its competitors, the likes of Ford or General Motors. And as one of the pioneers of the electric vehicle industry, its success in the sector can be seen as a litmus test for the potential and profitability of the technology, including to the UK.
The Roadster, first launched in 2008, was the first highway-legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 320km per charge.
After 10 years selling cars, Tesla ranked as the world's best-selling plug-in electric car manufacturer in 2018. This is a massive achievement in an industry that is notoriously difficult to penetrate as a new contender. New car companies need an enormous amount of start-up capital, have to navigate the very stringent regulations on health and safety and emissions, and deal with the uphill climb of achieving economies of scale.
As a new company and a pioneer of the emerging technology, Tesla shows UK industry, which is making its own strides into the electric vehicle market, that with the correct engineering and creativity you can find great success, even as a new brand.
Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and Triumph Motorcycles are certainly not new brands, and they have all made major announcements detailing shifts towards electrification.
In April, Aston Martin revealed its first production-ready all-electric car – the Rapide E – at China’s Auto Shanghai motor show. The car will be built at Aston Martin’s St Athan production facility.
In the same month, Jaguar’s all-electric I-Pace, which is designed and developed in the UK, won an historic treble at the 2019 World Car Awards. Not only did it win the coveted 2019 World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year titles – it was also named World Green Car.
On top of that, in May it was announced a new national centre of excellence for developing the latest electric car battery technology will be created in Coventry, in June it was publicised that the electric motor for Ferrari’s first plug-in hybrid is made in Oxford, and in June Jaguar Land Rover announced a collaboration with BMW to develop next generation Electric Drive Units.
All of this positive investment in the UK goes hand in hand with the growing demand for electric vehicles globally, and with the success of the industry’s pioneering companies like Tesla. Tesla’s success is the industry’s success, to some extent. To have flagship electric vehicle companies go from strength to strength leads the way for the rest of the pack, and creates potential for the UK’s lithium battery technology firms to find new clients, as well as the supply chain who may build components for the next generation of cars.