In case you have been living under a rock for the last decade, South African-born entrepreneur and Pretoria Boys' High School Alumnus Elon Musk is taking the world by storm. Musk owns companies in different industries, and he says his primary goal with each firm is to challenge the status quo so that we can live in a better world with a better future. Musk is planning manned missions to Mars, rockets that can be launched more than once and supersonic air travel so that we can get you across the world in under an hour for less than the price of a current economy class plane ticket.
But where Musk is perhaps making the greatest impact on the world is through his Tesla Motors. Tesla is not making advancements in electric engine technology, it is changing the technology. It's leading the way and leaving the world’s top manufacturers in its dust. Recently Tesla launched the prototype of its second sports car, the Tesla Roadster. The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric battery-powered four-seater sports car prototype Tesla says will be in production from 2020. The Roadster is said to be capable of going from 0 to 100 km/h in under 2 seconds, which is faster than any street-legal production car on the market. The Bugatti Veyron, the Veyron Super Sport, the Porsche 911 Turbo S (991) and the Lamborghini Huracán can all reach the same speed in around 2.5 seconds.
Part of the reason Musk does what he does is to make the impossible seem possible to more people. Whether the Roadster will ever be available for sale in South Africa is yet to be seen, but it is due to cost in the region of R2 700 000 each, which is considerably less than the R5 115 000 the Lamborghini starts at, or the Bugatti's R23-million price tag.
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Such is the impact Tesla is making, you would struggle to find a single luxury car manufacturer today that isn’t racing to develop its own electric sports car to future-proof its brand. The LaFerrari and the MacLaren P1 are both exceptional supercars, but are not fully electric and run on hybrid technology, which is an amalgamation of petrol and electric power.
Established brands such as Renault, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Porsche are racing to produce fully electric sports cars which they hope will take them to the top of the podium in the clean supercar race. But they face stiff competition from lesser-known brands like Rimac, NIO and Vanda, who have all set their sights on that elusive prize.
If it is luxury you are after, then rest easy as the race for an electric cruiser is a lot closer than the supercar equivalent. Rolls Royce plans on skipping the hybrid route and going straight to fully electric. Maybach, Audi, Bentley and Aston Martin also have concrete plans to produce business cruisers that tick all the boxes for the discerning motorist, while delivering world-leading electric performance.
The challenge we face in Africa and most of the developing world is access to reliable power and the facility to charge these electric cars. Although more and more charging stations are continually being added to the grid, there is still not nearly a large enough base to handle an electric revolution.
If you are looking for something to drive now that is future-proofed for the short term, then the Volvo XC90 T8 or the BMW i8 are probably your best bets. Neither are fully electric, but both have incredible hybrid technology which delivers economy and performance, packaged in a gorgeous body to suit all tastes.
The Volvo XC90 T8 has a twin engine that creates the power you might expect from a V8, but with just four cylinders and an electric motor. The result gives you 300kW of power with fuel consumption and CO2 emissions far lower than most cars in this segment. The XC90 continues to bring in awards locally and internationally, winning the 2016 SAGMJ South African Car of the Year, as well as Best SUV in the UK's Car of the Year competition, and, maybe most importantly of all the XC90’s 50+ awards, it won the best in class safety award for a large off-road vehicle in the overall category from the Euro NCAP. Swedish driving luxury will cost you between R1 151 000 and R1 580 000 depending on specs.
The future may seem far away, but it really is around the corner. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for fast, fancy or family. The luxury electric car market is making massive leaps every day, to ensure there is a tomorrow for all of us.