Tesla Motors has been served an interim injunction after a “smash and grab raid” on British company Ecotricity’s network of electric car charging posts.
Tesla opened its first UK dealership in October in the Westfield London shopping centre, Shepherds Bush, and the news comes just over two weeks before Tesla founder Elon Musk is due to fly to the UK to launch the firm’s new Model-S electric car.
Ecotricity had been working with Tesla to help it install its own electric car charging stations in Britain, but the firm says it was forced to seek the injunction to protect itself from what it claims were on-going and threatened breaches of a non-disclosure agreement between the two firms.
Under that agreement Ecotricity had disclosed commercially confidential information about its Electric Highway network, which it has been developing for the past three years, but Ecotricity claims it received threats from Tesla in a “brutal” email that it would denigrate the business and interfere with its commercial relationships.
“We reached out to Tesla in February to help them develop charging infrastructure in Britain, this is how we operate, we work with all car companies supporting all makes and all models,” said Ecotricity founder Dale Vince.
“After signing a mutual non-disclosure agreement, Ecotricity helped to design Tesla’s network, showed them the best locations, introduced them to our landlords and partners and started building the first two chargers for them, ready for the launch when Elon comes to town, on the June 7.
“Sunday evening just gone we received, from Tesla, very clear threats to undermine Ecotricity and the Electric Highway. This followed a Sunday Times article that day which described Tesla’s plans for what they called an Electric Highway and showed a map with four locations on, all of them our locations.”
“The e-mail itself was shocking and brutal, it set out what Tesla were going to do to Ecotricity this week in talks with Government, our partners and the media. It was very dark.”
Ecotricity’s free network is currently 80 per cent complete with almost 150 fast-charging points at motorway service stations around Britain. It is open to all brands of electric cars and capable of recharging a car in 20 to 30mins.
“Tesla appear to have liked what they have seen in our Electric Highway, indeed they told us they had not seen anything like it in all the markets they operate in to date,” said Vince.
“They liked it so much they appear to have decided to simply take it – this is nothing more than an attempted smash and grab raid. We are shocked and disappointed that a company like Tesla, with its aura of new world technology and challenger brand status – could behave in such an old world way – shame on them and shame on Elon Musk.”
The British firm will return to the Chancery Division of the High Court in London on June 4 to attempt to get a permanent injunction.
A spokeswoman for Tesla said: “We are aware of the actions taken by Ecotricity, but cannot discuss a pending legal matter any further”