No other car manufacturer is generating as much attention right now as Tesla Motors, Inc. The company, based in Silicon Valley, aims to combine performance with green technology and make affordable battery powered sports cars available to the masses. In 2008, Tesla turned heads when it launched the Tesla Roadster, the world’s first fully electric sports car. Earlier this year, the hype surrounding Tesla went into overdrive when the company unveiled a prototype for its Model 3 car, a four door compact sedan that it plans to deliver by the end of 2017. The Model 3 promises to have a driving range of 215 miles on a single battery charge and cost about $35,000. Pre-orders of the Tesla Model 3 have reached $14 billion and CEO Elon Musk continues to hype the car and company behind it. But here are 10 things you likely didn’t know about Tesla Motors.
10. Elon Musk is not a Tesla Founder
Despite his personal claims, Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is not a founder of the car company. The real founders of the upstart car company are Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, who launched Tesla in 2003 in response to the problem of the automotive industry’s reliance on oil. The two friends set about building a beautiful aspirational vehicle without any regard for cost. They wanted to bring green cars into the mainstream. Big on plans but short on cash, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning joined forces with Elon Musk in 2004, bringing him into the then-fledgling company to lead the company’s first venture capital round in 2004. Elon Musk muscled his way deeper into the company by personally investing $7.5 million in Tesla Motors. Over time, the extroverted and brash Elon Musk became the face of the increasingly popular Tesla company.
9. Tesla is Building the World’s Largest Battery Factory
Demand for Tesla’s vehicles is so great, and sales are forecast to be so robust, that the company is now making a huge investment to build the world’s largest battery factory, and one of the biggest buildings on the entire planet. Out in the California dessert, Tesla Motors is constructing a 5.8 million square foot factory to make batteries for its electric vehicles. Once completed, the factory will produce enough batteries to power 500,000 electric cars a year. In fact, the new Tesla battery plant will produce the equivalent of the world’s entire lithium ion battery production today under one roof. That is a massive and impressive undertaking.
8. Despite the Hype, Tesla Motors is Still a Small Car Manufacturer
Despite the current hype and daily reports about its progress as a company, Tesla Motors is still a relatively small player in the automotive sector. Over the past 10 years, Tesla Motors has shipped about 100,000 total cars to its customers. By comparison, the big three automakers in the U.S. shipped 17 million new cars in 2015 alone. BMW and Mercedes-Benz sold nearly 500,000 luxury cars in the U.S. last year. While Tesla Motors is clearly an innovator, influencer, and is pushing the automotive industry into the all electric vehicle market, they remain relatively small compared to the big players in the automotive space.
7. Currently, Tesla is Primarily a Battery Manufacturer
While they are known for the electric cars they produce, the reality is that Tesla is currently more of a battery manufacturer than it is an automotive manufacturer. Making long lasting, state-of-the-art batteries pay the bills at Tesla and drives investments into the company’s electric car technology. Tesla builds and sells high-tech batteries for use in commercial buildings, residential homes and municipal power grids. Some Tesla batteries are even being used to power wineries in northern California. The batteries are also used to help power solar panels and produce solar energy. Tesla takes the proceeds from sales of its batteries and pumps them into the car division, using the money to further development of its Model 3 and other electric vehicles.
6. Tesla Has Been on the Verge of Bankruptcy Several Times
Tesla Motors has followed the path of many start-up companies. It has burned through cash and come close to bankruptcy on several occasions. Tesla has also had to go out for new rounds of venture capital financing many times. In 2013, behind on development of its Model S electric car, Tesla found itself with only about two weeks’ cash left in the bank. Elon Musk admitted at a recent shareholders meeting that the company was on the brink of being insolvent in late 2013. However, each time it looked like the end was near, Tesla Motors found a way to raise needed cash and stay afloat. That is good news as the company has also been the target of takeovers from many other companies in recent years, including…
5. Google Has Tried to Buy Tesla Motors Several Times
Search engine giant Google is aggressively moving into the car space, notably with self-driving autonomous vehicles. The company is obsessively working on developing the world’s first completely autonomous self-driving automobile. Google co-founder Larry Page is reported to be obsessed with the notion of cars that drive themselves around. Also of interest are all electric cars. The advanced technology developed by Tesla Motors, especially its battery technology, is extremely enticing to Google, which is why the company has taken several runs at Tesla over the years. Larry Page and Elon Musk are friends, and it has been reported that Larry Page has, several times, tried to convince his pal to sell Tesla Motors to Google for very large sums. Yet, so far, Elon Musk has resisted these offers and kept Tesla Motors independent.
4. Tesla Cars Are Designed to Require Almost No Maintenance
With their electric engines and other advanced technology, not to mention the fact that Tesla Motors does not have a big presence outside California, the cars sold by the company are designed to require almost no maintenance. Tesla cars do not require oil changes, new air filters, spark plugs or fan belts. The batteries are so advanced and powerful that they too do not need to be changed during the life of the vehicle. And, the braking system is designed so that the brake pads on a Tesla also never need to be changed. Rather than using friction to stop, Tesla cars slowdown by reversing the motor – using the brake pads only sparingly. The only parts on a Tesla car that may need to be replaced are the windshield wiper blades and the tires. Beyond that, the car is pretty rock solid.
3. Tesla Cars Have Been Declared the Safest Vehicles in History
In addition to their high-tech parts and components, Tesla cars are super safe. How safe? Well, the Tesla Model S car received the highest safety rating of any car in history from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of the equipment used to test cars broke on the Model S vehicle because it is so strong and resilient. During a test to see if the roof of the car could be crushed, the machine used broke after it reached its highest power setting. The roof of the Model S remained intact. Elon Musk and the engineers at Tesla Motors say they want to revolutionize the entire automotive industry – not just the use of electricity to power cars but the way cars are designed and their ability to protect occupants.
2. The Company’s Name was Chosen at Disneyland
Tesla Motors is named after a scientist and engineer from Serbia named Nikola Tesla, who died in 1946. He invented the first alternating current motor widely used in cars today. Arriving at this name was not easy. For months, company founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning struggled to come up with a name. But then, Martin Eberhard took a trip to Disneyland with his girlfriend and inspiration struck. While eating at the Blue Bayou restaurant in Disneyland, Martin Eberhard suggested the name Tesla to his girlfriend. After explaining the significance of the name, Martin Eberhard’s girlfriend approved and the name Tesla Motors Inc. was incorporated on July 1, 2003. The rest, as they say, is history.
1. Tesla’s Next Move is to Design and Build an Electric SUV
Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are known for being notorious gas guzzlers — the worst offenders when it comes to consuming precious fossil fuels. Tesla Motors is hoping to change that though, as the company’s next foray is to design and build and all electric SUV. The company has already developed an electric compact SUV prototype it calls Model X. The prototype would seat seven people, have gullwing doors and be completely electric – using only a battery to travel around. However, with a starting price of $70,000, the question remains: Who will be able to afford such an expensive vehicle. The challenge for Tesla Motors remains to develop vehicles that will be affordable to the masses and that can be purchased by a wide cross-section of society. Time will tell if this goal is achievable. In the meantime, the prospect of an electric SUV is intriguing.