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Is Tesla about to be overtaken?

Tesla may have successfully launched a car into space but back here on Earth it’s beginning to look like its competitors may be about to blast past the electric car innovator with electric vehicles of their own.

History isn’t always kind to innovative companies who produce brilliant ideas only to have others pick them up and then run past them. Take Kodak for example. It invented digital photography, failed to capitalise on it and went bankrupt in 2012. On the other side of the coin, Apple wasn’t the first company to produce an MP3 player, but Apple’s products soon swamped its competitors who were. So is Tesla Motors heading the same way?

Porsche

Well it’s still early days for electric cars but makers like Porsche, Mercedes and Jaguar are starting to produce seriously competitive vehicles to Tesla’s luxury performance offerings. Porsche thinks it now has an important technological edge over the American carmaker when it comes to recharging. Its 800-volt recharging system promises to recharge its cars much faster than Tesla’s, which relies on a 400-volt system.

When it comes to the sort of eye-watering performance that will see you lose your licence faster than you can say “good morning officer”, well Porsche is right on top of that, too. The Porsche Mission E is a 4-door coupe with power expected to be around 447kW. When it eventually hits the roads you can expect it to pretty well match Tesla’s breathtaking acceleration speeds of 0-100kph in about 2.5 seconds. Unlike Tesla, however, which can only perform the feat twice in a row, Porsche reckons their behemoth will do it again and again.

But Tesla’s big problem may not be its cars’ technology or performance, it’s simply that the manufacturer can’t produce enough of them quickly. It’s a problem that’s looking particularly acute at the lower end of the market, where Tesla want its Model 3 to compete.

The Model 3 is Tesla’s “every person’s” car. It’s a stylish, practical family sedan with good range that’s reasonably priced. Sounds tempting right? Well don’t hold your breath waiting for one, because the Model 3 is mired in “production hell” and it’s been stuck there for quite a while now.

While Tesla struggles with mass production, conventional carmakers like VW, Renault-Nissan and Hyundai have that well and truly sorted, and they’re about to enter the market with their own reasonably priced electric vehicles.

Hyundai

Take Hyundai for example: waiting in the wings this year are the Ioniq electric and the Kona electric. The Ioniq Electric is one of a trio of “green” Ioniqs from the Korean carmaker. The others are a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid. The pure electric will have a range of about 280km and will be priced at around $43,000 – not exactly cheap, but not entirely unaffordable either. It may prove quite popular for environmentally-conscious fleet buyers.

Hyundai’s other offering, the electric Kona, is even more interesting. As a small SUV it’s aiming for that sweet spot in the Australian market. There are short range and long-range versions of it. The long-range option has a 64kWh battery with a motor producing 150kW and 395Nm of torque. It provides up to 470km in range, according to Hyundai. Under real world conditions you’d probably be unlikely to see quite that sort of range, but anything around that figure should be enough to calm the range anxiety of many would-be electric car buyers.

Tesla’s problems

Hyundai’s electric ambitions really throw the spotlight on Tesla’s problems. Not only is the American carmaker having big problems with mass production, there are serious on-going issues with its quality control as well. By contrast no one should doubt Hyundai’s ability to mass produce thoroughly reliable vehicles that are well-built, well equipped and competitively priced. You get the sense that Hyundai knows it’s onto something with its electric Kona. An electric billboard outside the recent Geneva motor show had a picture of the Kona with the cheeky caption “Your turn, Elon.”.

And Hyundai’s by no means alone here, there are a raft of Japanese, European, American and even Chinese competitors poised to hit the market with electric offerings of their own.

The impact of electric cars, especially in the fleet industry, will be fascinating to watch but for the moment the internal combustion engine remains king. Whatever vehicle you’re thinking of for your fleet, you’ll find Fleetcare’s comprehensive suite of fleet management services perfectly meets your business’s needs. Call Fleetcare today on 134 333.

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