Tesla Motors: The Next Big Thing

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Abstract

As time advances, the need for technology will still be present. It is something that is necessary to live a comfortable life in the United States, whether it pertains medicine, entertainment, or in this case, the automotive industry. Without any advancement in the automotive industry, we would still be left with the Model T and an inefficient combustion engine. Technological advancements are needed in order for us to progress as a whole in society. The reason we have things like heated seats, power steering, all-wheel drive, etc. are all due to technological advancements. This paper uses various online sources to prove that the company, Tesla Motors, is a technological advancement. The paper opens by providing an introduction to the company itself and how they came to be. Then, one of the company’s products will be reviewed and dissected to provide context on any technology that may be include. Finally, advantages and disadvantages of Tesla will be discussed.

Tesla Motors: The Next Big Thing

Since the dawn of the first automobile, fuel was always a major issue. While the first cars used ethanol based fuels or coal dust, the most efficient form of fuel turned out to be gasoline (Timeline: History of the Electric Car). As generations passed, cars began to become the norm around the world and we’re being used for transportation daily. As more people were driving cars, gas became a necessity and its price began to rise. It wasn’t until the 20th century that concerns arose for car emissions and pollutants along with the ozone layer and global warming (Timeline: History of the Electric Car). People realized that cars needed to use a fuel source that had no emissions, but was also somewhat efficient. All signs pointed towards electricity. Although electric cars had been made before, the first mass produced electric car was the Toyota Prius, released in 2000 (Timeline: History of the Electric Car). However, the first mass produced car had to have some problems. The Prius wasn't very aesthetically pleasing and it didn't perform well compared to other cars (Timeline: History of the Electric Car). In order to find common ground, a small group of Silicon Valley engineers got to work to show that you didn’t have to sacrifice performance and aesthetics for going electric (Schreiber, 2009). They wanted to make it more acceptable to for people to use electric vehicle technology as well as raise awareness for all the possible things you could do with this technology (Schreiber, 2009). These engineers along with the help of up and coming billionaire Elon Musk, helped lay the foundations for this arising technological powerhouse (Gregersen & Schreiber, 2019).

What is Tesla?

Named after the famous inventor and electrical engineer, Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, two American entrepreneurs (Gregersen & Schreiber, 2019). With degrees in electrical engineering and computer science respectively, they worked day in and day out to develop a electric supercar and bridge the gap between looks and performance for an electric vehicle (Schreiber, 2009). They decided to name their elaborate creation The Tesla Roadster. Having had several business ventures together in the past, these two were experienced and hungry for success (Schreiber, 2009). Once their designs, ideas, and concepts were perfected, they began the investor search by first pitching to investors they knew from previous company pitches (Baer, 2014). Knowing these investors only invested in website designs, this round of development served as practice pitches so that Martin and Marc could receive feedback and perfect their ideas before a real pitch (Baer, 2014). The focus of their pitch was to deliver the fully electric sports car as a “disruptive technology (Baer, 2014).” This meant that the Roadster provided the performance and value of some of the top sports cars on the market, while being almost half the price as well as better for the environment (Baer, 2014). They strongly pushed the idea that if you wanted a gasoline engine car that had the best acceleration, a high horsepower engine was needed, and gas mileage would be sacrificed when not utilizing its capabilities and driving fast (Baer, 2014). Doubling the horsepower of an electric motor only adds 25 pounds and still improves fuel efficiency (Baer, 2014). Using this reasoning, Martin and Marc stood firm on the fact that the Tesla Roadster was 6 times as efficient as the most efficient cars, and produced a tenth of the pollution that gasoline cars do (Baer, 2014). Though the two thought they had a solid plan, the investors thought otherwise. The two were pelted with different problems and questions by the investors relating to production and marketing (Baer, 2014). They took each bit of criticism and decided to improve their pitch for an actual set of interested investors.

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They ended up securing small investments from family and friends, however, only a small amount of investors actually contributed, and what they did contribute wasn’t exactly enough for the rapid growth they were hoping for (Baer, 2014). There was one last person who could help Tesla evolve rapidly with a large investment. His name was Elon Musk. At this point, Musk was an up and coming venture capitalist with a thirst for innovation. He had previously sold his past two companies for a whopping total of $1.8 billion dollars (Gregersen, 2019). Elon spoke at a Mars Society conference at Stanford, and Martin and Marc just so happened to be attending (Schreiber, 2009). The two young entrepreneurs were impressed and introduced themselves to Musk after the conference, hoping to leave an impression (Schreiber, 2009). Fast forward to 2004, Martin had sent Musk an email about possibly investing in Tesla (Schreiber, 2009). By this time, Martin and Marc had added Ian Wright to the Tesla Motors team (Baer, 2014). Originally from New-Zealand, Wright grew up building cars, and would serve as the Tesla’s car expert (Baer, 2014). Elon was interested in their offer and Martin and Wright flew out to Los Angeles, CA for the pitch (Baer, 2014). Elon Musk was the first investor that had an interest in electric cars and wanted to create the best looking and best performing electric car (Baer, 2014). The pitch was only supposed to last half an hour, however it went on for more than two hours (Baer, 2014). Musk was skeptical of production and car design costs, so no agreement was made yet (Baer, 2014). A second pitch was scheduled for the near future, but this time both Martin and Marc were present (Baer, 2014). The second time around, Musk was in. The paperwork was finalized and Musk invested a total of $30 million to become chairman of the board of directors at Tesla Motors (Gregersen & Schreiber, 2019).

Technological Aspects

While normal cars use gasoline and a small battery, Tesla’s use a renewable resource to power every single operation of the car. Each model they have on the production line is solely powered by a large set of lithium ion battery cells (Batteries for Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles). Lithium ion batteries are commonly used in cell phones, laptops, and other small electronic devices due to the fact of their efficiency (Batteries for Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles). These batteries energy capacity per unit mass compared to other battery forms is significantly more (Batteries for Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles). On top of this, the lithium ion batteries perform well under high temperature conditions, an ideal trait to manufacture an electric vehicle (Batteries for Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles). The battery is the only source of power, so whenever the car is on, your battery will drain slowly over time, as well as heat up. Without a lithium ion battery, the car would run out of power faster, as well as risk explosion or fire from the battery overheating. The fact that a electricity, a renewable resource, could now be used to power cars, is one aspect of Tesla that makes the company a technological advancement. The average person in America pays for electricity in their home, as well as gas for their car. Being able to cut gas expenses out of your financial plans proves that an advancement has been made.

Tesla started with their flagship project, the Tesla Roadster. After years of pitches, planning, tests, successes, and failures, the Roadster finally released in 2008 (Baer, 2014). Because Eberhard and Tarpenning were on a budget during the testing phase, they could not afford to have one car built to their exact specifications from scratch (Baer, 2014). They knew roughly what the car would look like, so they decided to look at cars with similar silhouettes. Eventually they stumbled upon the Lotus Elise as their a shell, using only the structure of the car (Baer, 2014). They bought an Elise, removed everything apart from the structure, and rebuilt it to their design specifications (Baer, 2014). There was no need for mechanical linkages in some places in the car due to it now being fully electric, so some improvements in the Elise’s design were made (Baer, 2014). The first of which came in the center console separating the driver and passenger. The buttons on and around the steering wheel were often pressed on accident due to the lack of space the driver had (Baer, 2014). To combat this, the center console was slimed down by removing any mechanical linkage pass throughs (Baer, 2014). This led to a skinny electric gear selector that allowed for both the driver, and the passenger to have a lot more space than what they previously had. Next, the engineers working on the car added a vehicle display system (VDS), a small touch screen next to the steering wheel to provide a variety of feedback to the driver (Baer, 2014). Some of this information included, battery range and tire pressure. Along with the feedback from the car, the VDS allowed for the driver to control various settings and modes that the Roadster offered. With the tap of a finger, the driver could set limits on performance for efficiency purposes, or have no limits at all and allow for maximum performance (Baer, 2014). Torque was also controlled electronically, and the odometer was electronic as well. The car’s transmission only needed a total of two speed’s. The first handled acceleration from 0-60 mph, and the second gear maxed out at 125 mph (Baer, 2014). Because the car was electric, an additional gear wasn’t needed for the car’s reverse function. Instead, the motors controlling the wheel would run in the opposite direction (Baer, 2014). The transmission in total was under 150 lbs, but has very good performance numbers for its size. Within a matter of months, the engineering and design team at Tesla Motors took a vehicle that ran off of gasoline, and turned it into a fully electric vehicle. On top of this, the Tesla Roadster was the first of its kind, a fully electric sports car. Due to the fact that improvements were made because of the added technology in the Roadster, the Tesla Roadster completed its goal of raising awareness and acceptance of electric vehicle technology. As of today, Tesla has added autopilot, gps, suspension control, cameras, sensors, touchscreens, and so much more to keep up with the era of advancing technology. For this reason, Tesla Motors can be considered a technological advancement.

Advantages

Tesla motors is a rapidly growing company and has a lot of upside as technology continues to develop. The main advantage of having a vehicle made by Tesla is the fact that you no longer have to pay for gasoline. The average american spends almost $2,000 a year on gasoline alone (Megan-Elliot, 2018). With an electric car, all you have to worry about is paying your electric bill, and your gas expenses are completely out of the equation. Along with this comes maintenance. Maintenance costs of electric cars are typically a lot cheaper because electric vehicles have significantly less moving parts than a typical car (Benefits Of Electric Cars). Air pollution is always a problem when it comes to vehicles, especially in areas with a high concentration of motorists. Nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons fill the air every second of the day (Vehicles, Air Pollution, and Human Health). It is estimated that nearly 150 million Americans live in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards (Vehicles, Air Pollution, and Human Health). Poor air quality leads to asthma and bronchitis, as well as increase the risks of cancer (Vehicles, Air Pollution, and Human Health). Having a fully electric car means there are absolutely no emissions from the vehicle whatsoever. As more and more people make the switch to electric vehicles, the pollution goes down along with risks of health problems.

Disadvantages

While there are advantages to buying a car you like, there are also disadvantages. One disadvantage comes with charging the battery (DeMuro, 2013). Tesla offers the choice to install your own charger in your home. If you don’t choose this option, you’ll have to rely solely on charging stations to keep your car charged. If the stations aren’t Tesla SuperChargers, you are looking at several hours before a fully charged battery. While Tesla is constantly expanding their supercharging stations, they may not be many by you depending on your location. The next disadvantage is cost (DeMuro, 2013). Tesla’s are a large initial investment. Prior to late 2019, Tesla’s cheapest model, the Model S, costed $85,000. They have recently offered a more consumer friendly option, the Model 3, that costs about $35,000.

Conclusion

Tesla Motors has been on a mission since day 1 to better the lives of car owners around the world. Their goal was to bring light to the wonders of the use of technology and electricity in the form of fully electric vehicles. Their flagship model, the Roadster was the first of its kind. The sleek bodied, lightweight vehicle out performs some sports cars and is demanding of respect in the automotive industry. While cost may be an issue, the amount of benefits is limitless due the expansion of technology by the day. Tesla Motors in itself is a technological advancement because it is changing the lives of consumers in more ways than one through the benefits of the technology they add into each of their products.

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