Misdirected email sparks electric car war between Tesla and Ecotricity

 

Senior Reporter

An angry High Court dispute between two eco-tycoons which is delaying the rollout of Britain’s largest electric car charging network was allegedly sparked by a single misdirected email, one of the companies involved has told The Independent.

Ecotricity, the UK’s leading provider of green energy owned by former New Age traveller Dale Vince, is currently involved in a furious spat with Tesla, the US electric car manufacturer founded by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, accusing it of trying to hijack its existing network of charging points.

Mr Musk’s firm, which launched its luxury electric saloon car the Model S in Britain last week, is in the process of creating its own network of Tesla-branded “superchargers” which will allow its customers to replenish their car batteries in a little over half an hour.

Until recently, it was in discussions with Ecotricity about installing new chargers at the same sites as the UK firm’s “electric highway” network. Relations were cordial until Tesla allegedly suddenly sent Ecotricity a bombshell email on 18 May allegedly describing how it intended to encourage service stations to break off their existing contracts with the British firm.

A furious Mr Vince described the email as a “declaration of war”, accused Tesla of attempting a “smash and grab raid” and took out an injunction at the High Court preventing the US company from proceeding with its plans.

Mr Vince has now told The Independent that the crucial email was sent in error by Greg Callman, head of supercharger deployment and stationary storage at Tesla, to Simon Crowfoot, Ecotricity’s director of new ventures.

“The email basically said that two senior people were flying out the following Wednesday, they were going to blacken our name with the Government, work with our motorway partners to help them break contract with us, and use the media to show us up as the bad guys,” Mr Vince told The Independent.

He was particularly angered by what appeared to be the suggestion of covert approaches to motorway service stations, saying that this would be in breach of a non-disclosure agreement that Ecotricity had signed with Tesla under which the US firm was given confidential information.

He added that he had initially believed that Tesla “were just telling us quite coldly what they were going to do”, but that he was now “pretty certain” that the email had only been intended to be circulated internally.

An injunction hearing about the case was due to take place this week, but has now been delayed, which may allow the firms to take part in mediation in the interim. Mr Vince would not be drawn on how much the dispute was costing in legal fees, but admitted that High Court actions were “never cheap”.

While he was in Britain to launch the Model S at the weekend, Mr Musk said of Mr Vince: “I’ve never even met the guy. Initially when we tried working with him he started making all sorts of outrageous demands, so we thought, ‘Well, OK, we’ll just not work with you’ – and then he sued us.”

But Mr Vince said the billionaire’s comments were “shocking”, adding: “To say that from the outset we made outrageous demands is baseless and absolutely untrue, and we’re staggered really that Elon should come to Britain for his launch event and peddle this nonsense.”

Before the misdirected email led to a spectacular fallout, the two firms had been cooperating very successfully, agreeing a deal whereby Tesla would get a 15-year lease for its chargers at Ecotricity’s existing sites. The British firm had even agreed to purchase a Model S car from Tesla to help promote its new chargers.

Tesla declined to comment.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'