It’s a tale of two west-coast businesses: one in the U.S. and one in the UK. Both trying to change the world forever by encouraging car buyers to dump the pump for good in preference for an all-electric car.
So you’d be forgiven for thinking Californian automaker Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] and UK utility company and charging provider Ecotricity would be the best of friends, working together to help achieve their mutual goals of a world without fossil fuels.
As we explained yesterday however, that’s about as far from the truth as it’s possible to be, courtesy of an ongoing battle in the British High Courts over charging station deployment in the UK. The case revolves around a claim made by Ecotricity that Tesla, after having approached the utility company for assistance in designing and deploying its Supercharger network in the UK, had then tried to cut Ecotricity out of any deals in an anti-competitive move.
Our coverage picked up on a Bloomberg-filed story covering proceedings at the High Courts yesterday when both companies attended an interim hearing into a high-court injunction filed by Ecotricity against Tesla last summer. The original Bloomberg story had incorrectly reported at first that only Tesla had been ordered by British High Court Judge Dame Vivien Rose to provide additional documentary evidence of internal meetings and discussions made with other companies about setting up its Supercharge network of charging stations in the UK for use by its customers.
In quoting Bloomberg, we duplicated that error, causing Tesla’s chief of communications Ricardo Reyes to reach out to us and offer Tesla’s version of events at the High Court, which included the then unreported fact that Ecotricity had also been ordered to provide financial records, strategy documents and modeling that support its claim that it can use the exclusive agreements it had with various motorway service station providers to block Tesla’s access to motorway sites.
Now Ecotricity has hit back at Tesla’s early-morning email to us with a statement of its own in which it calls Reyes out for making erroneous claims about what was said in court.
In it, Ecotricity claims that Tesla was erroneous to claim that the court had described Ecotricity’s approach as a “mockery of the pleadings,” and argued that while Tesla did win some parts of the arguments made in court yesterday, it counted less than half of the arguments made falling in Tesla’s favor.
It also claims now to have access to the emails of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and JB Straubel, Tesla’s Chief Technical Officer in which it claims to have evidence that Tesla tried of offer motorway rest stop providers with financial incentives to break their existing contracts with Ecotricity.
With Tesla ordered to disclose relevant documents from Tesla CEO Elon Musk and JB Straubel, including any personal email pertaining to the dispute — Ecotricity is looking for further evidence of what it claims is Tesla’s “underhand behavior”.
Rather than quote segments of the statement, we feel it best — as we did with Tesla’s email — to reprint it in its entirety.
Ecotricity have gained access to the email accounts of Tesla bosses Elon Musk and JB Straubel – as well as three other senior Tesla executives – during a High Court hearing relating to last years “smash and grab raid” on the green energy firm’s Electric Highway.
Ecotricity have a network of over 200 fast-chargers for electric cars covering over 90% of Britain’s motorway service stations which can charge all 30 of the electric cars currently on the roads of Britain, including the Tesla. The Electric Highway is free to use, powered wholly by the wind and sun and provided almost 5 million miles of emission-free travel in 2014. A ten fold increase on the year before.
Ecotricity had agreed for Tesla to install their Tesla-only chargers at locations where the green energy firm had existing contracts with motorway service providers, but the relationship broke down when, in a misdirected email, Tesla made “very clear threats to undermine Ecotricity and the Electric Highway” despite signing a mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement with Ecotricity.
Reacting to a statement from Tesla Motors chief of communications Ricardo Reyes that “Tesla was successful in a hearing today in the Ecotricity case, winning the vast majority of the matters before the Court” and claiming that the Court described Ecotricity’s approach as a “mockery of the pleadings”, Ecotricity founder Dale Vince said:
“It’s well beyond spin for Tesla to claim they won the majority of matters in front of the court, by our count it was less than half.
“But it’s one thing to spin the outcome to the media, it’s quite another to put words into the mouth of the High Court judge. We are staggered that Tesla have made this claim that nobody heard and are awaiting the court transcript.
“Mr Reyes was not at the hearing and his own lawyers deny telling him the judge said this, so where he got it from we don’t know. We call on him to withdraw his claim or provide evidence to support it, it looks to be an utterly false account and we will pursue it.
“This is probably an attempted diversion from the big story of the day, we now have access to Elon Musk’s inbox as we seek further evidence of underhand behaviour, including the offer of a financial inducement to at least one motorway operator, to break contract with Ecotricity.”
No doubt following this statement, we’ll be hearing more from Tesla’s side of the argument. And if we do, you can be sure we’ll print it here. There are, after all, always two sides to every dispute.
Ultimately however, it’s up to Justice Rose, her colleagues, and Her Majesty’s Judicial service to decide just what happens next. We just hope it’s an outcome which doesn’t damage either Tesla or other plug-in car owners and their ability to take long-distance trips as a consequence.
We’ll keep you posted.
[Edit – Following further communication from Ecotricity, the firm is clear to point out that it does not yet have access to Tesla emails, but that the order of the court to make those emails available should help it ‘seek further evidence’.
As per Stuart Brennan, head of Public Relations at Ecotricity wrote to us this afternoon.
To be clear. The court ordered that Tesla will now, finally, have disclosed to us relevant documents from Elon Musk and other senior executives (including any from their own personal email accounts), which we have been seeking for months and for which we were forced to issue the applications which the court heard yesterday, as we seek further evidence of what on the face of it appears underhand behaviour, including the consideration of proposing a financial inducement to at least one motorway operator, which would have had the effect of interfering with Ecotricity’s contractual rights.
[Other parts of the email have been removed at Ecotricity’s request]
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