Electrifying Europe: An interview with Tesla's Director of Western Europe [Video]

With so much recent buzz about electric vehicle developments in China, you might have forgotten about the tremendous potential for EVs in Europe. According to InsideEVs, European August year-over-year "EV sales grew by roughly 68%... [and] after eight months of the year, sales have now crossed the 180,000 mark." Furthermore, "Compared to the U.S., sales in Europe are around 34% higher, and have also been gaining at a higher rate of late." Sales have also been helped along by a myriad of European government incentives.


Above: Tesla Model X (Image: Tesla)

But what does this all mean for Tesla's future in the region? Although Tesla is the leading automaker for EVs in the US, there's still ample opportunity for growth in Europe. Tesla's Model S and Model X sales in Europe, rank #7 and #9 behind other, more affordable electric models. That said, there's plenty of runway for growth in Europe. Electrek reported that in Norway, Europe's epicenter of EVs, Tesla just broke its all-time high vehicle delivery record ever.

Above: Electric vehicle sales in Europe during the month of August 2017 and YTD (Left: Vox; Right: EV Sales Blog); Editor's Note: This list combines plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with 100% electric vehicles

To uncover more about Tesla in the the region, Tesla's George Ell recently gave an interview discussing the company's market opportunity in Western Europe. And, he should know —in 2014 Ell started as Tesla's Country Director for the UK and Ireland where he went on to grow Tesla's regional footprint from a single store to 14 locations across the region. Later, in July 2016, he was promoted to Tesla's Director of Western Europe. Today, Tesla has 20 locations in the UK and 13 across the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. 


Above: Tesla's Supercharger station in Flachau, Austria (18 stalls) — an example of Tesla's Supercharger network which remains the most extensive charging network in Europe (Flickr: Jakob Härter)

Ell discusses hot button issues locally where he's based in London, including CO2 emissions and poor air quality. In the auto industry, he notes that, "we see a take rate of diesel reducing over time" — and it's no wonder — considering the cartels and collusion that continue to plague the German carmakers. Looking further out, he's optimistic about efforts by European governments to crack down on carbon emissions. Recent news (see below, via Vox) on this front is, indeed, quite encouraging...

Europe: Fossil fuel phase-out plans

  • In June, Norway agreed to end sales of gas and diesel cars by 2025. (Norway leads the world in EVs — almost 40 percent of its newly registered vehicles were hybrid, electric, or hydrogen in 2017.)
  • In July, France announced it would end sales of gas and diesel cars by 2040.
  • In July, Britain announced it would end sales of gas and diesel cars by 2040.
  • In August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that her country would follow suit. "I cannot name an exact year yet,” she said, “but the approach is right, because if we quickly invest in more charging infrastructure and technology for electric cars, a general changeover will be structurally possible."
  • Last month, the Scottish government announced it would phase out gas and diesel cars by 2032.
  • This week, the Dutch government announced that by 2030, all cars in the Netherlands must be emission free
    • So what's Tesla's customer base like in Europe? Ell notes that, "... people love the car. We have an incredibly engaged ownership base that feel emotionally and passionately about their Teslas." When Ell is asked his opinion about the most exciting thing about working at Tesla, he says: "it's the scale of our ambition... it feels like we're having a positive impact on the planet."


      Above: Georg Ell, the Director of Tesla for Western Europe, provides his thoughts on the region and Tesla's overarching vision (Youtube: Verdict)

      Ell elaborates on the broader mission of Tesla that goes beyond vehicle electrification into clean energy solutions including solar and energy storage. Some recent examples: Tesla just installed their first Powerpack energy storage project in Benelux. And this summer, Tesla installed Powerpacks at Europe’s largest community battery project located in the UK. Ell explains, "We don't think of ourselves like just another automotive manufacturer... we think of ourselves as the first vertically integrated energy business."