It was with much fanfare and applause that Elon Musk announced news of Tesla launching in Ireland later this year.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 23, 2016
While it’s great to see the very latest in automotive technology about to hit Irish roads, Tesla might just come up against some unique obstacles when trying to break into the Irish market.
Auto pilot on our roads simply wont work
I think we’ve all had that moment when driving on Irish roads at some stage. The point where you simply have to stop for a second, pull in and re-evaluate how necessary your journey is. Some of the roads are so bad that you may hesitate to call them roads at all. Just take this road in Cork for example…
Indeed, we did hesitate to use the word road.
Combine this with the recent stand-out developments of Tesla cars in the form of Auto Pilot. As you’d expect, Auto Pilot allows you to sit back to a certain extent as the car drives itself. While this is great, can you imagine the on-board computer’s reaction to hitting the road above or the countless potholes to be found around the country.
While the country roads are bad, even some town and city centre streets would be a nightmare for an automated system to navigate with insane lane changes, necessary bus lane jumping and other madness that only the most skilled drivers feel comfortable negotiating in Ireland. It’ll be interesting to see how Tesla plan to get the most out of their Auto Pilot system in Ireland.
We don’t even like the immersion being left on
The fear of god was put into us in our youth. Terrorism and nuclear warheads paled in comparison to your auld lad coming in to find the immersion on. The electricity meter would be spinning faster than your head after the clip around the ear that your auld lad delivered for leaving the immersion on in the first place. With that level of fear, we are now expected to pop home from a day’s driving to plug in the car.
We can’t see that lark catching on at all, unless there is heavy investment in keeping the cost of running electric versus fossil cars way down.
Remember LPG gas? No? Exactly.
This isn’t the first attempt to bring in an alternate fuel source to tempt the Irish people away from their beloved fossil fuels. There was a time where all the rage was gas conversion kits for cars and running them on a very efficient gas known as LPG. The problem was that there was only a select few forecourts around the country at which you could refuel this rare gas type, despite it being massively popular on mainland Europe.
Granted, Tesla probably has a better foundation to build on. Just look at this map comparing LPG stations (left) to ESB charge points (right). Nissan’s Leaf has gone a long way to increasing electric car sales from 51 in 2013 to 222 in January of last year. This growing trend might well be enough to convince road users that, while electric cars are far from a dominant force at the moment, a bit of sex appeal that comes with the Tesla Model S.
Driving electric cars is a thankless chore
The biggest obstacle that Tesla launching in Ireland will face is the hassle owning an electric car causes. Electric cars were tempting to some early adopters due to financial benefits. However, in late 2015, ESB announced plans to hike the costs of electric car usage. In order for electric cars to continue to grow in popularity, there really must be benefits. If these start to dry up at this early stage, electric cars will be doomed to the fate of LPG fuelled cars.
The reason for this is ultimately that electric cars don’t have the range of traditional fuel source driven machines, which are looking even more cost effective considering recent price variations. Personally, there is one image (left) I caught recently near Patrick Street in Dublin that, for me, summed up electric cars in Ireland.
With Tesla launching in Ireland, what will it cost?
The ultimate crux of any car purchase, even those running traditional fuel sources, is the price. Of course, the likes of the Tesla S has an advantage in the fact it can get “a full tank” for just about €16. Unfortunately, the cost of the car itself is that of a premium sports car, approximately €70,000 up front. While there are certain kick backs, including a €5,000 grant from the government, cars with the Tesla logo will be a little too costly for just anybody to run out and grab one, no matter how cool they are.