A “CliffsNotes” Version Of Tesla’s Fascinating History

JAN 24 2019 BY EVANNEX 4

THE HISTORY OF TESLA IN FIVE MINUTES [VIDEO]

The history of Tesla is one of the most fascinating stories in business history – a quintessential American tale of technical innovation, marketing savvy and massive risk-taking. Those who aren’t ready to take the time for my 338-page history of the company may enjoy this watchable five-minute summary. This whimsical animation, suitable for all ages, is presented by Visual Capitalist in association with Global Energy Metals. It’s the culmination of Visual Capitalist’s Rise of Tesla Series, which also includes three infographics that present a pictorial history of the company.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Above: An animated look back as Tesla goes public in 2010 (Source: Visual Capitalist in association with Global Energy Metals)

This new video begins the story with the EV1, an electric car that GM produced in 2003. GM and other automakers built this first generation of EVs only because California regulators forced them to, and when the auto industry’s lobbying efforts succeeded in repealing the state’s EV mandate, the companies killed their EV programs. GM rounded up all the EV1s in and crushed them (the only two remaining specimens are at the Smithsonian and Disney’s EPCOT Center).

The EV1’s martyrdom acted as a goad for several EV enthusiasts, including a pair of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard. The two soon hooked up with Elon Musk, already a tech icon following his coup with PayPal, along with fellow engineers and lovers of speed J.B. Straubel and Ian Wright, and a legendary company was born.

Ironically, just as GM decided to kill the EV1, the car had been refitted with a lithium-ion battery, a vast improvement over the previous lead-acid technology that greatly improved its range. The Teslanauts’ business plan depended on the growing availability and falling cost of Li-ion batteries, but they knew that it wasn’t yet feasible to build a viable EV for anywhere near the cost of a gas vehicle. So, they devised a long-term strategy to reach their ultimate goal of ending the Oil Age.

Above: A 5-minute history of the many ups-and-downs of Tesla’s wild ride thus far (Youtube: Visual Capitalist in association with Global Energy Metals

Tesla’s Grand Plan was based on a three-part concept that would be familiar to any student of innovation: in step one, they would produce a high-performance, high-priced car (the Roadster) that they could sell to an exclusive group of wealthy gearheads and techies. Then, using the money and expertise gained from producing the first vehicle, they would build a luxury model, still expensive but more accessible than the first (Models S and X). The culmination of the Grand Plan would be an affordable EV for the mass market (Model 3).

Another key element of Tesla’s strategy was to change the way people perceived electric vehicles. Pre-Tesla, EVs were seen as impractical plastic golf carts suitable only for hairy lovers of granola (kale would be the equivalent in today’s iconography). The Tesla team’s stroke of genius – which, like most such strokes, was really quite simple, and didn’t require much genius – was to present an electric car as something hip, fun, super-high-tech and maybe even a little bit dangerous.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Along the way, Tesla has branched out into autonomous driving technology, stationary battery storage and solar energy, and it has plans to sell a range of vehicles from the Tesla Semi to the Model Y crossover to a game-changing pickup truck. The Tesla story has been more exciting than any thriller novel, with plenty of triumphs and missteps, and even a couple of near-death experiences. And it’s far from over. Hopefully this brief and fun summary will whet your appetite to learn more about the company.

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Written by: Charles Morris; This article incorporates material from Charles Morris’s book Tesla: How Elon Musk and Company Made Electric Cars Cool, and Remade the Automotive and Energy Industries, now in its third edition.

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers, free of charge. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX. Check out the site here.

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4 Comments on "A “CliffsNotes” Version Of Tesla’s Fascinating History"

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“The EV1’s martyrdom acted as a goad for several EV enthusiasts, including a pair of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: Marc Tarpenning and Martin Eberhard. The two soon hooked up with Elon Musk…”

To quote Martin Eberhard: What a bunch of cabbage!

Both Martin Eberhard and Elon Musk independently decided they wanted one of AC Propulsion’s tZero prototype electric “supercar” sports cars, but AC Propulsion refused to build one for them. So they independently decided to create their own EV startup to build a similar car. Musk was told by someone at AC Propulsion about the fledgling Tesla Motors, which had been incorporated by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning; Ian Wright was also involved before Musk was brought on board to manage raising funds. The tZero was powered by li-ion laptop battery cells, and served as the prototype for the original Tesla Roadster. Contrariwise, the 2nd generation of the EV1 was powered by a NiMH battery pack.

I’ve been following Tesla since 2008, and it’s only very recently that this revisionism about the EV1 has popped up.

Anyone who wants to read a real, in-depth tell-all about Tesla’s chaotic early years should try this:

“Tesla’s Wild Ride”

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/tesla-apos-wild-ride-174539166.html

“Both Martin Eberhard and Elon Musk independently decided they wanted one of AC Propulsion’s tZero prototype electric “supercar” sports cars, but AC Propulsion refused to build one for them.”

Huh???

The Tzero used lead-acid. Eberhand wanted a lithium-ion version, so ACP built him one. Tesla used that car to give rides to prospective investors and employees.

ACP didn’t want to take the Tzero into series production, preferring to focus on their eBox (Scion xB) and other conversion projects. Tesla licensed ACPs drive train and did a deal with Lotus for rolling bodies. Their slide deck said they’d be profitable at 300 cars/year….

“The Tzero used lead-acid. Eberhand wanted a lithium-ion version, so ACP built him one. Tesla used that car to give rides to prospective investors and employees.”

Here are a couple of quotes from Wikpedia’s article on the AC Propulsion tZero:

Martin Eberhard commissioned a conversion of the original tzero battery pack from lead-lead acid to 6,800 lightweight lithium-ion cells…”

So you’re right about that. Thank you for the correction.

Eberhard then borrowed the converted tzero for three months as part of his pitch to persuade venture capitalists to invest in Tesla Motors.

AC Propulsion refused to sell the car to Eberhard, but they kindly loaned it to him for an extended period, to give rides to potential investors. Tesla Motors also got its start with EV tech by licensing tech from AC Propulsion.

The animation is very good. I didn’t see any of the blatant factual errors that are common in discussions of Tesla’s history.

The Evannex commentary was, well, by Evannex.