Science

Weird. Do you know why the first Tesla…wasn’t a Tesla?

It is July 1, 2003, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning go to the California Business Registry Office. Respectively CEO and CFO, the two friends officially created Tesla Motors Inc.

Its objective? Make it a car manufacturer that is also a technology company. The two men have no employees, but they already see themselves building their own software and batteries for electric cars.

The chassis was that of the Lotus Elise.

The world needs batteries

Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning just sold their e-reader company for $187 million. For years, Eberhard would like to have fun with a sports car, but he dreams of an electric vehicle.

After meeting the heads of AC Propulsion, they invited him to test their prototype, the tZero. Convinced, he tries to convince AC Propulsion to market it. But the answer falls: impossible, no battery technology is really developed.

But Eberhard, who is familiar with the lithium-ion batteries used in his e-readers, is sure: This technology can revolutionize batteries for electric vehicles.

The interior of the cabin is a little less stripped down than in the Lotus.jpgThe interior of the cabin is a little less stripped down than in the Lotus.jpg

A very involved shareholder

In February 2004, when the company’s employees were still counted on the fingers of one hand, the company raised $7.5 million, including $6.5 million from Elon Musk, a young Californian businessman who became rich after having sold his stake in PayPal two years earlier.

At first, Elon Musk becomes chairman of the board of directors and main shareholder of Tesla, without being interested in the management of the company.

But things will change quickly. The young entrepreneur wants to oversee the design of the first Tesla car.

His goal is ambitious: to make Tesla the first mass manufacturer of electric cars. But for starters, Tesla will make a deal with Lotus.

California customers will wait a long time for their roadsterCalifornia customers will wait a long time for their roadster

A Lotus Elise chassis

The stakes are high: to show the world that it is possible to make an electric car that is both efficient and durable. The English manufacturer Lotus has developed an incredibly light chassis for its Elise, weighing just 65 kilos.

Lotus and Tesla reach an agreement for the delivery of 2,500 chassis for the first Tesla model. On paper, the idea is excellent.

Using the Elise chassis saves Tesla years of study and development. In fact, the bases of the English are not at all suitable for electric.

Elon Musk says: “In the end, there wasn’t much left of this damn car. We modified the Elise so much that the launch of the first roadster took much longer than expected.”

The Tesla Roadster also marks the arrival at the controls of Tesla by Elon Musk.jpgThe Tesla Roadster also marks the arrival at the controls of Tesla by Elon Musk.jpg

DarkStar, the cursed project

If the Elise’s chassis is wasting Tesla’s time, AC Propulsion’s tech isn’t much more usable. Tesla engineers modify the batteries so much that the company’s patents will not be used.

The battery is made up of 6831 cells, which are found in laptops. Eleven layers are superimposed, each containing nine blocks of 69 cells. Meanwhile, early customers grow impatient and Elon Musk has to reach into his pocket multiple times to keep Tesla alive.

Since his arrival, he has invested more than $70 million in personal money. He has no room for error, and yet the management of the company by its founders does not suit him.

The Tesla Roadster will be produced in 2,450 copies.The Tesla Roadster will be produced in 2,450 copies.

The expelled founders

In August 2007, Eberhard was summoned by the board of directors, headed by Elon Musk. He asks him to step down from his position as CEO. A few months later, he left all functions at Tesla, soon followed by Marc Tarpenning, another co-founder.

After a CEO waltz during 2007, it is finally Elon Musk himself who takes the reins of Tesla in 2008. The first copy of the Roadster leaves the Tesla factory in February 2008, it will be Musk’s copy.

The car develops 248 horsepower, has a range of 370 km and goes from 0 to 100 in four seconds. Tesla has just shown the world that we can build a desirable and efficient electric car.

Elon Musk, who now has his hands free, already sees further. It wants to develop a range of consumption to lower costs.

As for the first Roadster, that of Elon Musk, it will be sent into space on February 6, 2018, where it is still today!

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