Tesla plans UK R&D base, charging network and £25k 3 Series rival

CEO Elon Musk predicts that Britain will be a key market and R&D hub for Tesla, despite concerns over electric car infrastructure

The UK could be Tesla’s biggest European market, and between its third- and fifth-strongest market worldwide, according to CEO Elon Musk. Speaking at the handover of the first five right-hand drive Model S cars to British owners, Musk voiced optimism for his electric super saloon’s future in the UK, despite the struggle electric vehicles (EVs) have had eating into conventional car sales.

Musk said “At the moment, Norway is our biggest [non-US] market, but we’d expect the UK to overtake that, given the larger population.” According to the Tesla boss, there’s currently a four-month waiting list on a new Model S.

Tesla UK R&D centre plans confirmed

Musk also confirmed the UK will be the base for a brand new Tesla R&D centre, which could even precede a vehicle assembly plant in Britain – if demand is high enough. “We’ll have an R&D centre here before a factory”, Musk said.

“We’ll have our first European factory in continental Europe, perhaps the Netherlands, but it makes sense to have one in the UK once we’re producing more than 500,000 units. But the factory needs to be running at full capacity [to be viable].”

“I’d say Model S is more European than American in design and handling. Most of the set-up work was done by British guys!”

Tesla Supercharger fast charging network 

Responding to queries about the lack of ‘Supercharger’ fast-charging units in the UK, Musk said that “if you were to order a Model S today, by the time it arrives, we will have the whole of the south of England covered by Superchargers”.

The Superchargers offer a 135kW battery replenishing supply, giving a half-charge in just 30 minutes. The Superchargers are usable free of charge for Model S owners (the only EVs compatible with the system), and will cover the whole of the UK by the end of 2015, according to Musk.

“Superchargers will always be free because, relatively, it doesn’t cost that much to charge a car”, promised Musk.  “Plus, we have very low maintenance so we save costs there. I like the idea that your wallet stays in your pocket after you’ve bought the car. We’re not actually paying much rent for our Supercharger sites. In some areas, we’re actually being paid [for using the land].”

Between eight and ten Superchargers are planned at London’s ‘Crystal’ building at Royal Docks, where the customer/car handover took place. That means London will join an exclusive list of urban hubs with Superchargers within the city limits – other such cities include Beijing, New York, and soon, Shanghai.

Tesla-founder Musk, who made his fortune with online payment system Paypal, is also the creator of solar panel business SolarCity. The South African-born entrepreneur hinted that progress with solar-powered charging could lead to free-of-cost Tesla ownership in the future.

'Affordable' Tesla to cost £15k to 20K in real terms

Quizzed over a new, more affordable Tesla, Musk reassured that a cheaper car, thought to be a BMW 3-Series and Jaguar XE rival, is coming within three years. He predicted it will cost “around $35,000, or £25,000” but the cheap running costs will equate to it being a “£15,000 - £20,000 car”. The Tesla supremo also confirmed the purported ‘Model E’ name isn’t going to adorn the 2017 production car.

Meanwhile, the Model X crossover will see its first US deliveries in late 2014 and reach the UK in right-hand drive in late 2015. A Tesla insider confirmed to Auto Express that the concept car’s vertically opening  ‘falcon doors’ will definitely make production.

Read our first UK drive review of the Tesla Model S here and check out our pick of the best electric cars on sale now.


Tesla Model S Plaid claims Nurbugring lap record for a production EV
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S Plaid claims Nurbugring lap record for a production EV

Tesla founder Elon Musk claims “unmodified” high-performance Model S saloon has set a 7min 31sec lap time around the ‘ring
10 Sep 2021
Best used executive cars
Best used executive cars - header
Best cars & vans

Best used executive cars

If you need a fast, comfortable and stylish set of wheels, check out the best used executive cars the market has to offer
18 Aug 2021
Top 10 longest range electric cars 2021
Longest electric ranges - header
Electric cars

Top 10 longest range electric cars 2021

EV range is a hot topic right now so we’ve listed the top 10 electric cars with the longest range
12 Aug 2021
Tesla Model S review
Tesla Model S static
Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S review

The all-electric Tesla Model S is an impressively competent luxury EV, but new rivals mean it’s got a fight on its hands
17 May 2021

Most Popular

'The death of cheap cars will be a travesty for personal mobility'
Opinion cheap cars

'The death of cheap cars will be a travesty for personal mobility'

Our appetite for small, cheap cars is as strong as ever - although Mike Rutherford warns they may no longer be profitable
12 Sep 2021
What is Skoda vRS? History and best cars driven
Skoda vRS range

What is Skoda vRS? History and best cars driven

To mark 20 years of Skoda’s vRS badge, we rounded up some of the performance cars from the past two decades that have worn the subtle green badge
17 Sep 2021
Genesis G80 vs Mercedes E-Class vs Lexus ES
Genesis G80 vs Mercedes E-Class vs Lexus ES
Genesis G80

Genesis G80 vs Mercedes E-Class vs Lexus ES

The Genesis G80 looks to make an impact in the executive saloon class as we pitch it against the Mercedes E-Class and Lexus ES
18 Sep 2021