Tesla is an American electric-automobile manufacturer synonymous with innovation. The company gained a head start in the industry by reenvisioning electronic vehicles and pushing the green movement forward. But before the buzz and Elon Musk, there was the GM EV1.
The first mass-produced and purpose-designed electric car by General Motors (GM) was leased in the late ‘90s but was later discontinued. GM deemed it too niche for the then fickle automobile market. Its death, however, sparked a dream in many: a zero-emission future.
In 2003, Silicon Valley engineers and entrepreneurs Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning took up the mantle and started Tesla Motors. The company named after Serbian American inventor Nikola Tesla, known for his creation of electromagnetic devices, once again jump-started the development of electric vehicles (EV).
EV enthusiast and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk joined the company in 2004 as an investor and took on various roles including designing cars and serving as the chairman. Five years and several prototypes later, Tesla released its first electric sports car, the Roadster.
Compared to the EV1 which was powered by lead-acid batteries, the Roadster ran on lithium-ion battery cells and could cover a distance of 300 kilometers upwards per charge, making it more sustainable than the former. The Roadster could also accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 4 seconds and boasted speeds up to 201 kilometers per hour, which were numbers unmatched for an all-electric vehicle during its time.
The Roadster, which was based on the Lotus Elise chassis, not only looked good; it was also sturdy despite its being lightweight. This can be attributed to its carbon fiber body. Since it was powered by lithium-ion, it could also be conveniently recharged from a standard electric outlet. Given its advanced features, the Roadster was a premium with its price tag of $109,000.
Musk announced that profits from the sports car will be used in developing affordable EVs and other electric power generation options.
In 2009, the brand showed off a prototype of the Model S’s which would replace the Roadster and begin production in 2012. The all-electric luxury sedan was to be offered with three battery options. The highest configuration of the Model S could travel at 600 kph and accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in less than 5 seconds. The Model S’ battery was stowed underneath its floor giving it more storage space and improved handling. It was acclaimed for its exceptional design and performance. The 2014 Model S—and other Tesla vehicles released afterward—also featured the Tesla Autopilot, advanced hardware that allows semi-autonomous driving. This provided a glimpse into future self-driving cars.
Having found the rhythm, Tesla would showcase the crossover Model X prototype just months after the Model S’s introduction. The prototype stirred up excitement with its futuristic “Falcon Wing” doors which open upwards instead of sidewards. It could seat up to seven passengers and boasted a maximum battery range of more than 475 km/h.
Delivering on its promise of more affordable Tesla cars, the Model 3 was introduced. The Standard Range base model, which was offered at $35,000, could still be categorized as a luxury but is significantly priced lower than other Tesla models. The base model could achieve more than 200 km/h speeds and could go from 0 to 96 km/h in a little over 5 seconds.
Beyond EVs and Semi-Automation
After securing funding from investors and going public in 2010, Tesla became more than just an electric automaker. It changed its name to Tesla Inc. in 2017, making it known that the company has evolved into something bigger than it originally intended.
In its Gigafactories, the company developed solar energy products for homes and businesses and lithium-ion batteries. The company also built Superchargers, eventually dubbed Tesla Stations, across the United States and Europe for Tesla owners to charge batteries for free and provide the service of replacing Model S battery packs. Musk is also vocal about the many modern technologies they are working on.
Despite changes in leadership, criticisms, and autopilot troubles, Tesla’s achievements and pro-Earth influence are unparalleled for a company that has only a little over a decade under its belt. At the rate it has been churning out new innovations, it is only to be expected that greater things are yet to come from Tesla.
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE July 2019 Issue