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Electrified automotive industry.

What Elon Musk has achieved with TESLA has got the entire segment hustling and bustling.

Quiet, emission-free, self-driving with a range suitable for everyday use: the latest generation of electric cars is pointing the way into the future.

 

 

When Elon Musk, Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning, JB Straubel and Ian Wright founded TESLA Motors, Inc., in Silicon Valley back in 2003, it is unlikely that anybody thought they would be the people behind a paradigm shift in the automotive industry just a few years later.

 

Imagine people standing for more than 12 hours in endless queues in front of city retailers. When we see scenes of this nature we are automatically tempted to seek the white logo with the bite mark in the apple. However, the people here are not queuing up for a new smartphone or tablet, but rather for a car: the Model 3 from TESLA.

 

"To build an emission-free production (sports) car in large numbers for a broad target group" - that was the founding goal of TESLA Motors, Inc. The ever-growing number of TESLA superchargers at filling stations are meanwhile proof positive of how well it has worked. The concept is indeed promising. Buy a TESLA and never pay another cent for fuel as charging the battery is completely free for TESLA customers - forever. It would seem Mr. Musk's overall concept of coupling his cars with an intelligently networked navigation system that calculates the planned route in consideration of supercharger locations will pay off. TESLA has installed 2,832 superchargers over the past three years, thus making the concept more suitable for a mass market.

 

But the plan is bigger still: Musk's declared objective is no less than to revolutionize the entire automotive industry. And not only that one. His approach is more than smart. Over the past years he has implemented his plan step by step. When he started out it was hard not to succumb to the impression that Musk's first sports car - which was, by the way, the first ever car with lithium-ion batteries - was just a toy for wealthy customers. In reality, the roadster gained him the wherewithal for the next step: the development of his luxury limousine, the Model S. In turn, it has now financed the recently presented Model 3, the construction of the TESLA Gigafactory and the expansion of the supercharger network. 

 

Musk has set another cornerstone for the mass suitability of his cars in the form of the Gigafactory. Firstly, it is intended to cut the production cost of lithium-ion cells by 30% and, secondly, increase production capacity. The target is to supply 35 GWh of cells per year. That is more than the total global production of 2003! By 2020, more than 500,000 vehicles per year will be equipped with cost-effective battery packs. For Musk it is a matter of course that the factory will be powered entirely by self-harvested solar power. Due to its size (it is one of the largest man-made structures in the world and is visible from space) the battery factory produces more electricity than it consumes and feeds the surplus into the public network.

 

So what are the automotive industry's global players doing? It would appear they are awakening from their 100-year sleep and realizing just how serious the situation is. After all, Apple, Google and TESLA are about to prove that traditional industries could become insignificant in the era of digitization. The apparent strength of traditional car manufacturers lies in decades of experience and the infrastructure that has grown over the course of time but is based on the concept of the conventional combustion engine. That could be the weak point in the struggle for dominance in the electromobility market.

 

But, as the saying goes, there's life in the old dog yet and for this reason it is worth taking a look inside the development departments of traditional car manufacturers. A glance at the F 015 from Mercedes Benz shows a considerably more innovative and futuristic vehicle. It is, however, a concept car whose readiness for series production is still quite literally written in the stars. This is because, among other reasons, it is not only an e-car but also a fully self-driving model. With regard to autonomous driving the vehicle manufacturers from Stuttgart recently caused quite a stir on the A8 highway with their self-driving Future Truck 2025, although the truck is still powered by a conventional combustion engine. Virtually every car manufacturer meanwhile has concept or hybrid cars intended to point the way into the future. The only drawbacks are the readiness for series production and acceptance by the general public. And what Apple is currently developing in California (and at a secret location in Berlin) is as yet still open to speculation. The Californians are good at keeping secrets (whereby a fast market penetration in large cities through car-sharing [instead of a sales network] could become an open secret). What is certain: The iCar will come and Daimler, GM, Toyota, Nissan, BMW and Audi are currently the hunted. The hunters are Apple, Google and TESLA.

 

It therefore comes as no surprise that Forbes hailed TESLA as the world's most innovative enterprise in 2015. It remains to be seen whether the remaining automotive industry will pick up the gauntlet Mr. Musk has thrown down so forcefully. Mr. Musk's cars are currently the state of the art: sustainable, emission-free, fast, sexy and suitable for the mass market. 350,000 pre-orders in the first week send a clear signal. All the more so considering that every pre-order requires a down payment of USD 1,000 (!). The message is loud and clear as soon as you take a seat behind the wheel of a Model 3: Welcome to the 21st century! THOMSEN GROUP has used TESLA shuttles for a number of years to collect clients from the airport.

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