Tesla at TED

The president of Belarus wants the country to build an electric car capable of rivaling Tesla. Alexander Lukashenko told aides and car manufacturers at a government conference on Thursday that engineers should look to Elon Musk’s vehicles as the standard to meet.

“It accelerates so fast as to leave all the German combustion engine cars we’ve tested way behind,” Lukashenko said, reports state-owned media outlet Belta. “They couldn’t catch up. The Tesla car goes off like a space rocket and even harder. 100kmph within 2.5 seconds. I was curious about traction. It turns out its traction is ideal.”

Emulating its success will be a big challenge for Belarusian industry. Official figures show manufacturing accounts for 28 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, specializing in heavy industry vehicles like tractors. But the country has hi-tech ambitions: a Wall Street Journal report claimed that IT exports totaled $705.6 million in 2015, and the Hi-Tech Park located in the capital city of Minsk has aided the development of apps like Viber and World of Tanks. As the world starts to move toward electric vehicles, the sector may find itself taking on Musk and others sooner rather than later.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

Lukashenko, who test-drove a Model S, noted a number of features that engineers could seek to emulate. The batteries stored underneath the car, for example, help maintain the balance at high speed. Similarly, the motor provided strong performance from the start.

The instant speed is an oft-cited feature of Tesla’s electric vehicles. The Model S P100D set an impressive acceleration time of 0-60 in 2.28 seconds back in February, when MotorTrend magazine put the car into “Ludicrous Plus” mode. Even the Tesla Model 3, the company’s more affordable electric vehicle that entered production in June, has been spotted on camera pulling away at impressive speed from the traffic lights.

“It is the future,” Lukashenko said. “We should not fall behind. We should not lag behind with our competences and scientific standards. In the near future nobody will want to buy combustion engine vehicles like hot cakes the way it was in the past. Compare this car to what we have created and aspire for these standards.”