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Former Tesla manager says electric vehicle technology is set to evolve in exciting ways

A Tesla hybrid car on display at the One Planet Norwich Festival focusing on sustainability in the Forum. Picture: Steve Adams

A Tesla hybrid car on display at the One Planet Norwich Festival focusing on sustainability in the Forum. Picture: Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016

An automotive businessman who helped Tesla design its first electric vehicles has expressed his view that the technology will evolve in “unimaginable” ways.

Glyn Owen, who formerly ran Tesla’s UK operations, was studying for an MBA at the University of East Anglia when he met the firm’s now-eponymous founder Elon Musk 12 years ago and shared with him his thoughts on electric vehicles – which led to a job with the California start-up.

Having worked in the automotive industry for 40 years Mr Owen said he was “bored with the way it was evolving”.

“I explained to him my frustration with the industry and said we ought to be looking at electricity as the prime mover for cars.

“I also said we ought to look at the fact that 1.25 million people die on the roads every year on this planet and the only way to solve that is to take the driver out of the equation, because they cause most of the deaths.

“Putting both these things together seemed like a good thing to work towards. Elon said he wanted to get involved.”

Speaking to guests at a seminar hosted by wealth managers Chadwicks in Norwich, Mr Owens shared his belief that electric vehicles are outstripping other eco-friendly alternatives like hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

“The electric motor is five to seven times more efficient than the internal combustion engine, is 10 times cheaper to run, and there are 80% fewer moving parts so it is more durable and reliable,” he said.

“We have reached the point where electric vehicles are an interesting proposition that make sense. With disruptive technologies you have to satisfy the fact that the product can do what it already does, which an electric vehicle can, and in terms of convenience it is not much different to a car. Plus the price of batteries is dropping like a stone.”

On self-driving vehicles, Mr Owen said the technology was almost ready for market. “We are talking about hardware, software and the whole business being ready to accept the transition to autonomous cars by 2019.”

He added: “I have seen a pretty exciting part of the automotive industry but I wish I was in it now, because the next 20 or 30 years are going to be more exciting.”

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