Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the launch of the Tesla Model X SUV / Getty

Musk said low oil prices could 'dampen interest in electric vehicles'

Electric car manufacturers will have to design more futuristic and flashy vehicles in order to battle the threat posed to their industry by falling oil prices, Tesla Motors chief executive Elon Musk has said.

Musk's company is one of the most popular and well-known electric car firms out there, and his impressive vehicles have become more and more appealing to wealthy consumers as the price of oil has risen.

However, now that oil prices are at their lowest in 11 years (oil is currently around $33 a barrel compared to $114 18 months ago), Musk believes electric cars could be losing some of their cost-saving appeal.

Speaking at a Hong Kong startup business conference, the South African-born technologist said the free-falling price of oil "definitely makes the transition to sustainable energy more difficult."

He added that it could also "dampen interest in electric vehicles in general."

However, Musk believes that by giving these high-tech vehicles even more futuristic twists, they could regain some of their appeal.

As AFP reported, Musk said: "What we're aspiring to do is to make the cars so compelling that even with lower gas prices, it's still the car you want to buy."

Tesla has made some big steps in this direction in recent years. The 'Autopilot' feature in the company's vehicles allows them to switch lanes and navigate winding roads without any input from the driver, and the Tesla Model X SUV has Back To The Future-style gullwing doors.

Although the two Tesla models currently on the market are being sold as high-end, high-performance cars, Musk thinks a totally driverless future isn't that far away.

Speaking at the conference, he said all cars will be autonomous in the next 15 years, with even steering wheels becoming obsolete in the "long, long term."

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