You can buy Tesla infrastructure in SA, but not their cars: So why is there a Model X here?

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• Rubicon imported a Tesla Model X to raise awareness around electric vehicles and infrastructure in South Africa.

• Though the Model X is not on sale locally, Rubicon will sell Tesla's charging infrastructure to customers.

• While South Africa is seeing a small influx of electric vehicles, the rest of the world has more options.

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If you've been keeping a close eye on the roads lately - or social media, for that matter - you would have noticed a very uncommon vehicle roaming South African motorways. It looks vastly different to anything else on the market and has a massive T-like badge. We're, of course, talking about a Tesla Model X that's been imported by Rubicon, a South African company playing in the energy and e-mobility space, as well as industrial technologies.

Since arriving in the country, the Model X has covered more than 19 000km, with more expected as Rubicon continues its awareness campaign across South Africa. Speaking to Greg Blandford, Rubicon's director, he confirms that the Tesla Model X has three goals to succeed in. These being to raise awareness around Tesla and its power wall and energy products, to lobby the South African government to warm up to electric vehicles (EVs) faster and get them excited about EVs that are globally available, and, thirdly, to announce Rubicon's entry to the EV charging space.

Blandford points out that while South Africa is in somewhat of a bubble when it comes to EVs and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, greater awareness needs to be created if we are to hold a candle to what the rest of the world is doing.

He says: "I think South Africa has a bit of catching up to do because we've only seen a few EV models come into the country; whereas the rest of the world has a larger variety. So hopefully, by running this campaign with the Tesla, we can get our government excited about what's to come and let the public experience these new technologies."

Tesla Model X
2021 Tesla Model X

It's a Tesla!

South Africa is no stranger to imported vehicles, and we often see imports running around our cities. Corvettes, Dodge RAM bakkies, a Ford Mustang Mach-E… the list goes on and on. But it's uncommon for a Tesla to be seen in South Africa. This is precisely why Rubicon opted for the Model X because it creates a different perception in your mind.

Tesla is the most renowned EV brand globally, with its vehicles sold in almost every first-world country. The Model X is the SUV in the family and is instantly recognisable by its falcon wing rear doors.

Blandford notes: "Everyone is aware of the brand, and it's a very famous one. And because we are Tesla's partner in South Africa on energy products, it made sense for us to bring a Tesla into the country." 

According to Blandford, the Model X has helped a great deal in Rubicon achieving its awareness goals. Interestingly, the younger generation has shown a greater interest in the new technologies, indicating their intent and mindset towards a green future. While this does not suggest that the older generation is not interested, the younger, more tech-savvy consumer is generally more 'woke' with a greater understanding of EVs and these vehicles' relevance as we advance.

"Further down the line," Blandford explains, "the younger generation of today will be the consumers of the future. Therefore, we need to showcase the technology to people to understand what is out there and what is accessible. "

Blandford says that Tesla has no plans of selling its family of electric vehicles in South Africa. And though Rubicon is the official Tesla partner in the country, the agreement only covers the company selling Tesla charging infrastructure. Importing a Tesla is an option, but there are a lot of red tape involved and many hoops to jump through. Let alone the R3.0 million asking price, of which R1.4 million is tax.

Tesla Model X
2021 Tesla Model X

Rubicon: a major player

A factor withholding South Africans from opening their minds to EVs is the poor situation regarding our electricity supply. Loadshedding has become a regular - and almost acceptable - occurrence in our lives, while the lack of sufficient charging infrastructure is not helping, either. With Blandford at its head, Rubicon realises this and confirms to Wheels24 that they are addressing the situation.

Having been the most significant player in the alternative energy space, particularly solar, for more than 12 years, Blandford says they've been providing solar solutions to private and commercial customers. And while solar power and energy storage remains the backbone of what they do, Rubicon will now also be supplying EV chargers to both homes and businesses.

Blandford explains that entities with solar power have already taken the first step towards going green and off the grid, making the transition to EVs that much easier. Self-sustaining homes are not reliant on Eskom, with the power generated from the sun being enough to keep the household running and an EV charged.

Rubicon has several EV charging brands available for customer installation but has recently added Tesla's wall chargers to its portfolio.

Blandford says that Rubicon is looking at greater involvement in the e-mobility space down the line while helping South Africans make the switch to the next generation of mobility.

He concludes: "EV infrastructure is a challenge in South Africa, but between us, Rubicon, and OEM customers, we'll be installing about 250 EV chargers across South Africa. While this is great, we still need to bring some of the hurdles down with the South African government - one of them being taxes. But if we, as a country, can overcome these challenges, there would be greater adoption of EVs."

Wheels24 will run a second article in which we share what it's like driving the Tesla Model X.

Tesla Model X
2021 Tesla Model X
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