It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for Prime Minister Tony Abbott the last few days, what with the whole knighting a Prince thing, and that situation has been made worse by the seemingly open revolt of various Liberal Party MPs and government backbenchers. One voice has been conspicuously absent, though -- Malcolm Turnbull, who is making geeks across the country jealous with a visit to the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.
Image via Malcolm Turnbull/Facebook
As well as a factory tour, our Communications Minister also took a test drive of a Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sedan. If Malcolm's anything like us, he's a fan of the Model S's ridiculous, ceaseless acceleration. He's a fan of that big, beautiful 17-inch central touchscreen in the dashboard. He's a fan of the 500-odd kilometres of range on a single charge with no carbon emissions. Maybe he'll buy one when he gets back to Oz -- his electorate of Wentworth is a stone's throw from the Supercharger stations at the Star.
Ministers often use their Christmas break to go forth internationally on fact-finding missions, and Turnbull's visit to Silicon Valley makes sense -- it's one of the world's high-tech nexuses and entirely relevant to his job as communications minister in Government. It's also one of the locations that federal Labor MP, Turnbull baiter and Australia Tax prize-fighter Ed Husic visited at the start of this year.
Quoth the Comms Minister:
Visiting the Tesla factory in Fremont, near San Francisco, was a great thrill. The all electric cars are being made in a huge factory that used to belong to GM and Toyota. It shut down and then four years ago Tesla took it over and it went from being an industrial relic to the home of what many regard as the world's fastest and coolest electric car. And many of the workers at Tesla today are auto workers who had been laid off when the old GM/Toyota plant closed. Tesla has gone from employing 500 people to 11,000 in five years. A reminder of how innovation drives jobs.
Walking through the highly automated assembly lines was inspiring, but nothing matched taking a test drive in the latest Tesla S model. This one has a range of 265 miles (about 480 kms) and accelerate to 100 kph in 3.5 seconds. The key of course is the battery technology which is improving all the time both in terms of cost and energy density. Batteries have the potential to revolutionise the energy market, reducing peaking power requirements, optimising grid utilisation of renewables and in some cases enabling consumers to go off the grid altogether. The excitement of technology in the Bay Area is exhilarating.....but not quite as palpable as the jolt you feel when you hit the accelerator!