Tesla’s Head Battery Engineer Leaves Automaker

NOV 7 2017 BY MARK KANE 17

Tesla’s senior director of battery engineering, Jon Wagner (see Linkedin profile) has left the company to pursue his own battery and powertrain Stealth Startup.

Jon Wagner – Batteries and Powertrain at Stealth Startup – contact me to find out more – now hiring!

Jon Wagner joined Tesla in January 2013, and for almost five years (until September 2017) he was working on Model S, Model X, Model 3, and energy storage projects. Via LinkedIn:

“Jan 2013 – Team leader for battery pack design engineering: mechanical, thermal, structural, electrical, and system engineering. Led the cost-down and product improvement effort for Model S/X battery pack. Pushed R&D technology development focused on architectures for cost reduction, reliability, and safety. Brought many of those technologies to market in S/X, Powerwall, and Model 3.

Placed specific emphasis on employee and team development, leadership, and team culture. Overhauled performance reviews, compensation, recognition, and lightweight engineering process for rapid paced progress.

Also held Interim Director positions at various times for Body Engineering, Computer Aided Engineering, Materials, Battery Manufacturing Engineering.”

It’s not known what led to the departure, but we doubt that it’s related to the Model 3 production delays.

Mission RS

Earlier, Jon Wagner worked for Mission Motors (March 2009 to December 2012) as CTO. Info via LinkedIn

“Built, led, and mentored a cross functional engineering team. Set strategic direction with regards to technology development. System level design.

Battery pack: cylindrical and pouch, water and air cooled
Battery Cell testing and selection
Battery management electronics and algorithms
Motor and Gearbox: AC Induction and Permanent Magnet with splash oil cooling
Motor Inverter: 3 Phase liquid cooled motor inverter, sensing, and controls
Vehicle/System controller and datalogger
Web UI for vehicle data exploring and exporting

At Mission, we built what is still considered the world’s best looking and performing electric motorcycle. To make ends meet when investment didn’t come through we also built a successful engineering services organization, doing projects with Harley, Caterpillar, Honda, Sony, and others.”

Shake ups at Tesla aren’t unusual or unexpected. It happens at Tesla and elsewhere throughout the auto industry all the time, so we will try to not read too much into this, but rather look forward to whatever Jon has up his sleeve for the future.

Source: Reuters

Categories: Tesla

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17 Comments on "Tesla’s Head Battery Engineer Leaves Automaker"

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(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

I predict in the future some of the engineers will leave and follow him.

That’s typically how it goes.

Is this related to the Model 3 battery cell production software debacle?

As I understand it, there isn’t any cell production debacle at Gigafactory One. Panasonic’s production side of Gigafactory One is doing just fine.

The problem is on Tesla’s side, with the battery pack assembly production line, and reportedly with the software controlling the machines on that production line.

I predicted there would be a problem with just one big factory sooner or later.

The insider guy with the posts on electrek says otherwise. He says the Panasonic people from Japan are great. But the locals don’t know a wrench from a broom. So the locals keep breaking machinery through idiocy and the machinery is hard to repair because it was all custom made in Japan with parts you can’t get here. And then there is the issues with power outages. The power goes out and the machines stop and then they have to throw out a lot of cells that were in process and clean out the electrolyte that crystallized in the machines before they can start again. And he says they are having difficulty making cells which have as much capacity as they counted on making. And then there is the days the plant can’t open because the workers can’t get to it due to closures on I-80. If this guy isn’t a fake there are a lot of cell problems for Panasonic at the Gigafactory. It does seem like most could be solved by simply making the cells in Japan instead though. That’s a quick fix but would mean reduced production capacity. https://disqus.com/by/endeep/ SJC isn’t the only one who pointed out… Read more »

I suppose many key people in a tech company as high-profile and future-oriented as Tesla will often be able to pocket a bigger share of what their work is worth by leaving – either to start a venture of their own or by joining a competitor. This is a normal challenge for this kind of company, and it’s actually a good thing for competition.

As long as Tesla doesn’t get into so much trouble that it looks like it’s imminently imploding they’ll have little trouble attracting new talent – in part precisely because it’s such a career opportunity booster.

I agree with that.

Changing the management structures as a company grows and recruiting talent to manage those more mature & complex managment structures is a very difficult but critical component to any fast growing company.

For successful companies, this process always results in several key legacy management employees exiting the company as it matures often because the more complex structure is beyond a managers competency and/or because the manager desires to re-enter an early stage growth opportunity.

I wonder whether it’s related to the recent round of layoffs.

Seems like Wagner places special emphasis in his LinkedIn profile on his contribution to employee relations. Perhaps the layoffs pulled the rug from under his “camp”, or perspective, in Tesla’s management.

More likely it’s related to the same reason they lost their head of automated driving (Chris Lattner).

Because working with Musk is difficult.

After *5 years* of working with him? Unlikely.

The article states why he’s leaving. I don’t understand why the question is still open. He can’t do his (ex)job at Tesla *and* start up his own company!

So this is like the 11th or 12th Tesla exec to leave this year? Let’s go for a baker’s dozen before the end of the year! One thing that Tesla actually overachieves in: executive departures. :p

Well DUH! — larger companies have more employees both hired on and leaving in a year than smaller companies. (I wonder how many execs GM has leaving in a typical year?)

So thanks for pointing out that Tesla is a fast-growing company, Bro1999. That is the point you were making, right? /snark

His big projects at Tesla are done, so he’s moving on. I wouldn’t read anything more into it than that.

The 2170 cell and pack are done, which was a huge undertaking. The Model Y will use a version of the same pack, but that’s a packaging exercise, not a new architecture.

So, professionally speaking, this fellow was looking at a pretty dry future unless he moved on. I’ve done the same thing at various points in my career as an engineer.

Yeah, I think so, fairly typical.

Plus who wants to receive daily verbal beatings from Elon any longer than you have to.

Considering Tesla still wants to develop a roadster, a pick-up and a semi, he would still have a lot to do if he wanted to stay.

Hope he goes back to his roots and brings to life a long ranged and inexpensive electric motorcycle.