China: Shanghai will exempt Tesla and other imported electric cars from its dreaded license plate auction. Big deal? Well, Shanghai is the world’s most populous city, and the auction often tacks between $12,000 and $15,000 onto the price of a car. Chinese-built EVs have always been exempt, but now Tesla is exempt too, up to the first 3,000 units sold. After that, Tesla would have to ask for more. So yes, this is a big deal. With any luck, this attitude will spread to the world’s second most populous city, Beijing. It doesn’t run an auction, but instead forces everyone to enter a lottery with roughly 1/30 odds of winning a plate, exempting only locally-built electric cars. These measures are meant to make polluting-car ownership as miserable as possible, to boost EV sales and de-smoggify the air.
Japan: When Panasonic says “maybe” about the Gigafactory, it really means “hell yes.” Panasonic is struggling to make money in consumer electronics but makes a juicy profit in “eco solutions.” That comprises energy-saving components for new homes, and battery supply to Tesla. So any public hesitation by Panasonic is merely a ploy for better Gigafactory partnership terms. The two companies are in the same canoe and will soon agree to shut up and paddle.
India: It could be the next “China” for Tesla, says Tesla’s CFO. India has wealthy denizens and smoggy cities. Sounds a bit like China, yes? However, India is a real fixer-upper. China may lack a solid EV infrastructure, but India arguably lacks an infrastructure, period. The country desperately needs civil engineers, but the pay stinks. So the young and educated understandably gravitate to the lucrative computer industry instead of sweating at low-pay public works projects that are likely polluted by corruption anyway. Harsh but true. And so day-to-day challenges abound. India is home to the worst power outages in world history, and traffic control barely exists. Road fatalities far exceed all other nations. Urban driving is a game of inches, and the Model S and X are wider than most Indian transport. Also, Tesla’s environmental appeal may be largely lost in India at least for a few years, because the “greenest” residents are among the poorest. Unlike in the US, where it’s vogue to be “aware,” and where people of all strata buy Priuses “just because,” Indian environmentalism is not vogue. It struggles to “trickle up” from the agricultural sector as it tries to fight off industrial land-taking and pollution. Despite all of this, Indian natives Tata, Reva and Mahindra do indeed sell EVs. Battery-powered scooters and rickshaws whoosh about. Will Tesla’s Gen III emerge just as India’s middle class develops a healthy appetite for EVs? Will Tesla develop a special horn suited for the rigors of Indian commuting? Automakers do build special horns for India, you know. And most importantly, will Tesla’s autopilot system flash profane messages on the touch screen when it tries to negotiate Indian intersections?