Yesterday, I shared a video interview with international superstar Akon that I conducted with him regarding Akon Lighting Africa, a company he and a couple of other guys launched to bring solar power and LED lighting to millions of Africans. Tagged on at the end of that was a joking question about whether or not he had a Tesla Model X or Model S yet. I figured there was a chance he had a Model S, but if not, I thought I’d plant the seed and hope that he’d follow through and became a Tesla driver and EV evangelist.
I was pretty surprised to find out his story on this front, and I thought it was something worth highlighting on its own since many people tune in for Tesla stories who don’t care much about solar and probably skimmed over the solar-focused headline yesterday.
Like many famous musicians and actors, Akon went on a car-buying spree after becoming rich. He had 28 cars, including Lamborghinis, Ferraris, BMWs, and so on. However, he found the Teslas to be so much better than anything else that he got rid of all of his other cars and now just has 4 Teslas — two at his home in Georgia and two at his home in California.
The Tesla love isn’t brand new, either. Akon has apparently been a big fan of Tesla long enough to be one of the first people to put a $40,000 deposit (or two?) down for the Tesla Model X (~4 years ago). I didn’t ask him what Model X VIN(s) he had, but he was apparently one of the first few hundred people to receive an X.
Akon did make one notable mistake, imho — he chose white for all of his Teslas…. He apparently didn’t think my love of the brown and green Teslas was very cool, and to be fair, those are no longer options and white seems to be the one of most popular options, but it’s still my least favorite color on a Tesla, so I’ll stick to my claim that he made a mistake on that front. (At least change it up for different moods, man!) On the plus side, white is more energy efficient in the hot climates where Akon lives, so we can give him some more green cred for that.
Akon told me that his Teslas were all customized (natch) but “P85D” didn’t seem to register, so I wasn’t sure how aware he was of other plug-in cars on the market. I started to tell him about how the BMW i8 and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid compared (i.e., didn’t) to the Tesla Model S, from my perspective, but before I even got to tell him how much better Tesla’s all-electric driving experience was compared to these plug-in hybrids, he beat me to the punch and went on a tangent about how they’ve got to be fully electric and how great Tesla’s over-the-air software updates, extra space, and torque are. I loved it.
The enthusiasm in his speech and the light in his eyes really made me want to highlight this aspect of his green focus, and the first title that popped into my head was, “Akon, The Tesla Fanboi.” He seemed to be cool with that idea, so I basically ran with it above (as you’ve already seen).
I love that Akon also threw in that BMW should let him test a fully electric high-performance car if they make one, and that he wants Elon Musk to provide him with a special Akon Tesla. Using that star magic for bigger opportunity — that’s what it’s for, right? I hope such collaborations do occur, because that’s the kind of thing that just pulls more and more people to electric cars … which we hugely need. (I hope Akon does loop us in for some exclusive coverage if he makes a deal with Elon!)
While Akon didn’t highlight the green benefits of electric cars when talking to me, I’m under the impression these matter a lot to him. In a separate interview a Masdar guy conducted with him soon after mine, Akon talked at length about the need for climate action. Here’s an extended quote from that:
“Our passion is always going to be the key to our freedom, but ultimately freedom doesn’t exist if we’re in a position that we’re not [inaudible] within ourselves. This energy crisis is way beyond just… a thought. Like, this is not only our futures, but it’s our kids’ futures and it’s the world’s future, because, even when you look at the climate change and how things are drastically changing, if we don’t come together now, as we’re doing, because it’s going to be this generation that makes the difference — clearly — it’s gonna be a huge problem for us tomorrow. There is no future for the earth. Nature is not gonna wait. Nature’s gonna go on with or without us. The same way dinosaurs went extinct, guess what, nature kept moving. That’s just the natural course of life, so we have to want better for our environment, because our environment at the end of the day is what allows us to live free and enjoy life the way it is. So we all have to play a role, and we all have to unite. Forget whatever issues, whatever differences — at the end of the day, as humans, as the human race, we all have to live under the same globe, so we have to come together and make the right decisions.”
Great stuff. Akon is definitely a climate hawk. Here’s that full interview for much more on his solar passion, dreams about helping the world, African roots, and wise advice for the young people in the audience and in general:
And here’s my full (recorded) interview with Akon, including the solar power component:
Huge props to Akon for using his star power and money to advance the solar revolution, the EV revolution, and LED lighting. Couldn’t ask for much more. (But I’m sure I will if I get the chance again. 😀 )
Update: Note that most of us here (including myself) self-identify as Tesla fanbois & fangurls.
Here are the results from surveys we conducted with >2,000 EV drivers and potential EV drivers: