NZ power brand quick to join long queue for latest Tesla

A New Zealand power supplier that moved smartly to sign up for the latest Tesla shouldn’t be in a hurry to see its latest prize.


INFORMATION from today’s global launch of Tesla’s long-awaited budget model suggests the example already reserved by a New Zealand company might take a while to get here.

In an announcement today apparently timed to coincide with the Model 3’s global reveal event in the United States, Mighty River Power said it had reserved an example of the wholly battery-powered five seat sedan, which carries an entry price of around $NZ51,000 in America, to join its expanding fleet of electric vehicles.

Mighty River chief executive Fraser Whineray said his company was keen to have a car he said has the potential to showcase the latest plug-in electric vehicle technology in “the most EV-ready market globally”.

Mighty River’s press statement did not mention, however, that the reservations list it has joined is mammoth. It contains more than 155,000 names – a staggering count that might take the brand several years to clear on current production effort.

The electricity company avoided providing detail about when it expected its car to arrive.

Questions subsequently sent to the firm’s media office about this, the vehicle’s landed price and specification and how the car might be supported in a country where Tesla has no official representation also went unanswered today.

However, details supplied by the maker during the event at its design studio in Hawthorne, California, suggest a vehicle promised to provide a full-charge battery range of 346 kilometres and be capable in its least powerful form of 0-100kmh in less than six seconds might be taking a slow boat to this country.

Production begins in America next year and initially the brand is restricting to domestic deliveries. It has suggested international destinations, especially right-hand drive markets, will not be served for another 24 months from now.

Even that schedule seems subject to change because not only is Tesla infamous for failing to meet production deadlines but there is also that massive pre-order that was spurred by some clever marketing.

To elicit interest in a model that is designated as the brand’s volume seller, Tesla CEO Eion Musk announced that a deposit of just $US1000 ($NZ1448) would secure an order.

That opportunity has resulted in an avalanche of interest; one that apparently grew by 20,000 names alone during today’s launch.

Tesla has not said how it intends to address the staggering interest, which surpasses that for its previous cars - the now defunct Roadster, the flagship Model S luxury car – examples of which are already in New Zealand - and the Model X, a crossover.

Whineray is positive about the Model 3 in his statement, saying: “We have an almost unrivalled opportunity with New Zealand’s 80 percent renewable electricity to make a real difference to the country’s transport energy and emissions profile. This is a vehicle seen by many as the cutting-edge of innovation at a more affordable price.

“In my view there is no better place in the world to be plugging in a vehicle than New Zealand, with our home-grown renewable energy delivered to your home or business at 30¢ a litre. No fossil fuel, or biofuel, will ever be that cheap or free from tailpipe emissions.

“The more natural Kiwi energy that we can pump into our cars and transportation system the better. We know that the most compelling advertisement for electric vehicles is to get people behind the wheel.”

Tesla hosted Mighty River Power and Mercury Energy at their factory in California a year ago. Mighty River subsequently committed to shifting 70 percent of its fleet to plug-in electric by 2018, with about 20 percent of its fleet currently plug-in electric.

Whineray says the purchase is an ideal complement to Mighty River’s fleet that includes Nissan LEAFs, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs, an Audi A3 e-tron, a BMW i3, Holden Volt, and a plug-in Toyota Prius.

Musk has promised that the Model 3s will come in various performance levels, in both rear- and four-wheel-drive, and be among the safest cars available. All versions will be standard with Autopilot hardware (autonomous driving functionality) and have Supercharging (very fast recharging) capability.

To give a sense of airiness to the cabin, and also to gain some extra headroom, it'll have a roof that's a single continuous pane of glass.

How many Model 3s does the company want to sell? Musk has expressed confidence he can ultimately ramp up both the Californian vehicle assembly plant and the new Gigafactory lithium ion battery facility to produce a total of 500,000 vehicles a year