Munich When Constantin Schwaab was one of the very first Germans to buy the brand new Model S in 2013, he was personally presented with the electric car by Tesla founder Elon Musk at an event in Munich. “I was a real fanboy,” remembers the later founder of the charging station specialist Wirelane.
But recently the entrepreneur received unpleasant mail. Tesla accuses him of damage to his reputation in a warning. If necessary, an injunctive relief will be enforced in court. When asked, Tesla did not want to comment further on the allegations made against Wirelane.
In Germany, every charging station at which charging current is billed by kilowatt hour must have a meter that conforms to calibration law. Many older columns, where customers could previously charge for free, are not calibrated – so switching to billing is not possible.
Wirelane warned customers about Tesla wall boxes
Schwaab pointed this out to its customers in the summer, such as hoteliers who also have a Tesla wall box in their underground car park. “With the current electricity prices, many hoteliers with Tesla Destination Chargers give away electricity worth more than 10,000 euros every year – or do not bill their charging transactions in accordance with calibration law,” he wrote.
He immediately offered a solution: the “obsolete Tesla Destination Charger could be exchanged for modern, calibration law-compliant Wirelane charging points”.
The so-called “Wall Connectors” from Tesla are attached to restaurants or hotels, for example. Charging there is often free of charge for the customers of the respective shops, who are included in the directory of this network. In view of rising electricity prices, some providers want to start charging for charging.
However, the Bavarian State Office for Weights and Measures had announced, for example, that it would punish the placing on the market and commissioning of new, non-calibration-compliant AC charging stations in commercial transactions. Users of non-calibration-compliant charging stations would have to report themselves and submit a conversion plan.
The calibration authorities would then make individual decisions “taking into account the principle of proportionality and after consideration and in accordance with the goals of consumer protection, the goals of developing the charging infrastructure in Germany and the goals of fair competition”.
Tesla demands a cease and desist letter for damage to reputation
Against this background, Wirelane sees opportunities to expand its business. “I definitely have a business interest,” admits Schwaab openly. His company mainly focuses on hotels and commercial real estate as customers.
Tesla now accuses Schwaab in the letter that the statements in the letter to the hotels were abridged and “represented a deliberate impairment of Tesla’s reputation”. In addition, they are suitable “to denigrate and disparage the goods and the business relationships of Tesla”.
Schwaab does not see itself as a competitor to Tesla. And not just because the entire Wirelane fleet consists of Teslas. With its fast charging stations, which Wirelane does not offer anyway, Tesla is more of a supplement. The Americans’ fast-charging stations are important for electromobility overall, says Schwaab. “Hotel guests also have to get to the hotel first – and are therefore happy when they find a Tesla fast charging station on the motorway.”
According to his own statement, the Wirelane founder is surprised and, above all, disappointed that the US company immediately contacted him with legal threats. “You could have talked to each other first.”
Elon Musk inspired Schwaab to found Wirelane
When handing over his first Tesla, Schwaab had a friendly chat with Musk. He asked the US entrepreneur whether there would be open interfaces at Tesla for which smart charging apps could be developed, for example.
Musk said yes, and Schwaab later came up with the idea of founding his company. Wirelane benefits from the fact that the new charging station regulation stipulates that in future all charging stations must have a credit card payment option. Wirelane integrated these into its charging stations at an early stage and therefore sees itself in a good starting position.
He does not want to sign the cease-and-desist letter that Tesla is demanding. “It’s true what I wrote, and the same law must apply to everyone.”
However, Schwaab would no longer describe himself as a Tesla fanboy. He now has his problems with Musk’s behavior and his political positions. “And it’s not good how the company is behaving in the market.”
Collaboration: Claudia Scholz
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