Petrol be Damned: Why Tesla and the UK are a Perfect Match

By Chris Mills on at

In the coming months, the country's wealthier neighbourhoods are going to get a new bit of eye-candy on the driveways. No, not a new Aston, but rather the shiny new Tesla Model S: an all-electric saloon that'll finally be making its way to our right-hand drive shores, two years after going on sale in the US -- a shame, seeing as our island is a much better fit for the electric car flagship.


The Money Argument

Let's get the boring, sensible reasons why Tesla and the UK are a match made in heaven out of the way first. Petrol in the UK costs a lot. We're all made aware of this every time the readout creeps up dangerously close to a hundred bleedin' quid for one single tank of go-juice.

But to put it in perspective, the UK is in the top-10 for world's most expensive gasoline, only beaten out by a handful of even more unfortunate European countries. That means that petrol here costs a little over double what it does in the mighty 'ole US of A, the Tesla's home country.

Obviously, then, anything we can do to make driving a little cheaper is good. And electric vehicles make driving a lot cheaper.

Economically, there's another good reason for buying electric: the government will give you £5,000 in cold, hard cash (well actually they'll give the dealer five grand, and you just get a cheaper car, but semantics) if you buy a new electric vehicle. Five grand! That's, like, most of the income tax you maybe paid last year, back and in your pocket. Score one for over-inflated government budgets.

Good reasons, like buses, always come in threes, so here's your economics double-whammy: electric vehicles (technically, any ultra-low-emissions vehicle) don't have to pay the ruinously high congestion charge for the privilege of driving around London, so you can cruise up and down Whitehall screaming abuse at politicians -- for free -- all day long.


The Range Argument

The most common criticism of electric cars that you'll run up against is that they don't go very far; try to use one to run further than the shops and you'll end up pushing it all the way home, according to the detractors. But the latest range of electric cars, especially the Tesla, have ranges a little over 250 miles, which in Britain, will get you almost anywhere you want to go. London to Edinburgh is only a shade over 400 miles, for example, and you could probably get from Land's End to John O'Groats in two stops.

And with Tesla's plans to build a decent supercharger network in the UK, with charging stations that can recharge your batteries in half an hour strategically placed along the motorway, range really won't be a concern.

This is where the UK's got an advantage over other nations. We're not just a relatively small country, we're also a rather dense one. As such, building a network of superchargers that covers 95 per cent of the population isn't nearly as hard or expensive as it would be in the USA, or Norway, or even France. It's the same reason we've got one of the best and most competitive mobile phone industries in the world; building nationwide infrastructure's pretty easy when your nation is tiny, and crammed full of people.


The Fun Argument

"Aha!", I hear you shout from your blogging den, "but all the reasons you've listed so far apply just as much to the G-Wiz as they do to a Tesla". While that's largely true (arguments about range and not wanting to look like a complete weirdo aside), the launch of the Tesla in the UK brings something the electric car market in this country's been lacking for quite a while: a car that people want.

Most other electric cars are practical to a fault. Their manufacturers whittle on for column-inches about range and cost-per-mile and a whole plethora of things that you should probably care about but don't, since you're not really a fully functioning adult when it comes to cars. Tesla doesn't bother with that: they just have cars with door-handles that pop out and say 'hi', instantly justifying the eye-watering £50,000 price tag. (And, if you're the Daily Mail, seemingly inspiring you to write an entire column dedicated to making word-love to the Model S.)

(More importantly, the Model S can hopefully save us from more of these photos, where some poor rural bobbies get given these monstrosities as police patrol vehicles, and then have to stand around trying to look excited about it.)

Yes, the Model S isn't perfect. Fifty grand is still a hell of a lot to pay for a four-door saloon, even one with an iPad wedged between the two front seats. Depreciation and battery wear-and-tear will probably be issues in the long run, and good luck trying to find a parking spot with an electric charger in London. Let's be honest, with your sensible trousers on, the Nissan Leaf is almost certainly the right choice.

But all of this aside, there's good potential for the Model S to properly kickstart an electric-car revolution in our green and pleasant land. That's something we can all be excited about, even if we don't have a spare 50K in our pockets.