In twelve years of existence, Tesla Motors has achieved many amazing feats. The most trusted sources in the auto industry have called its Model S the most advanced, safest and best-performing car ever built - and it doesn’t use a drop of gasoline. Tesla has changed the way the public perceives electric vehicles, and inspired the major automakers to revive their own dormant efforts to sell EVs.
However, even amidst the avalanche of media coverage that followed the triumph of the Model S, few have grasped the true significance of what is happening. Tesla has redefined the automobile, sparked a new wave of innovation comparable to the internet and mobile computing revolutions, and unleashed forces that will transform not just the auto industry, but every aspect of society.
The Tesla story is one part of an ongoing tide of change driven by the use of information technology to eliminate “friction” such as geographic distance, middlemen and outdated regulations. Tesla is simply applying the new order to the auto industry, but the automobile is such a pervasive influence in our lives that redefining how it is designed, built, driven and sold will have sweeping effects in unexpected areas.
Just as Tesla built the Model S as an electric vehicle “from the ground up,” it has taken an outsider’s approach to the way it markets its cars. Its direct sales model has drawn legal challenges from entrenched auto dealers, who fear that their outdated business model will be destroyed. Its systems approach to the software and electronics in its cars has highlighted how far behind the technological times the major automakers are.
It’s easy to see why readers find Tesla irresistible. CEO Elon Musk is a superstar entrepreneur, a “nauseatingly pro-US” immigrant and the leader of two other cutting-edge companies. Tesla dares to challenge the establishment behemoths and, so far at least, has handily beaten them at their own game.
In this history of the 21st century’s most exciting startup, Charles Morris begins with a brief history of EVs and a biography of Tesla’s driving force, Elon Musk. He then details the history of the company, told in the words of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who made it happen.
There are many fascinating stories here: Martin Eberhard’s realization that there were many like himself, who loved fast cars but wanted to help the environment and bring about the post-oil age; the freewheeling first days, reminiscent of the early internet era; the incredible ingenuity of the team who built the Roadster; Tesla’s near-death experience and miraculous resurrection; the spiteful split between the company’s larger-than-life leaders; the gloves-off battles with hostile media such as Top Gear and the New York Times; and the media’s ironic about-face when the magnificent Model S won the industry’s highest honors, and naysayers became cheerleaders overnight. And the story is just beginning: Tesla has breathtakingly ambitious plans for the future.
Author Charles Morris was a participant and chronicler as the internet revolution unfolded in the 1990s, and he draws on that broad experience as he discusses Tesla’s lasting influence, and where it fits into the technological revolution that is transforming society.
Charles conducted personal interviews with two Tesla founders, Marc Tarpenning and Ian Wright, and two members of the AC Propulsion team who were instrumental in the development of the Roadster, Tom Gage and Paul Carosa. He cites over 300 secondary sources, with links to a wealth of further reading.
As Senior Editor of Charged, the magazine of the electric vehicle industry, Charles Morris is one of the world’s most respected authorities on electromobility. His daily blog posts, which cover every facet of the EV scene, including technical, business, marketing, political and social aspects, number over 2,000, including