Whereas he is the face of the electric-car maker at this time, Elon Musk didn’t begin Tesla.
Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning have been co-founders of Tesla, aiming to supply what turned the Tesla Roadster. They attracted funding from Musk, who was granted a md of the board place together with his funding in 2004, throughout Tesla’s first funding spherical. This week CNBC posted a video interview (carried out in 2019) with the 2 co-founders recounting the early days of Tesla
Eberhard and Tarpenning based Tesla in July 2003, though the corporate remained in stealth mode till July 2006, when it revealed the Roadster. Musk was named CEO (the corporate’s fourth) in October 2008, the yr the Roadster entered restricted manufacturing.
Previous to beginning Tesla, Eberhard and Tarpenning collaborated on one of many first e-readers—the Rocket e-Reader—earlier than transferring on to electrical vehicles. A fan of sports activities vehicles, Eberhard mentioned he invested in failing EV startup AC Propulsion, and proposed the usage of lithium-ion batteries.
2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photograph by Joe Nuxoll.
Eberhard and Tarpenning additionally mentioned they got here up with the thought of basing the Roadster on an current sports activities automobile—the Lotus Elise. Whereas they felt fairly assured that their Silicon Valley information would cowl the motors, batteries, and management methods, that they had no expertise with different points of automotive engineering, Tarpenning mentioned. They pitched the thought to Lotus on the Los Angeles auto present.
The following step was to search out funding. AC Propulsion had did not persuade Musk, however Eberhard and Tarpenning used their shared love of area exploration (that they had beforehand met Musk at a Mars Society convention) as a dialog starter.
“We’re pitching this to somebody who is definitely making an attempt to make rocket ships,” Tarpenning mentioned.
In April 2004, Musk invested $6.35 million of Tesla’s $6.5 million Sequence A funding spherical, and have become the corporate’s second chairman of the board.
With Musk onboard, Eberhard and Tarpenning started growing their electrical powertrain. It concerned quite a lot of trial and error, and the beginning of the battery administration methods that at this time oversee EV batteries and energy methods. Eberhard even buried battery cells and compelled them into thermal runaway—simply to see what would occur.
Tesla went on to construct 2,500 Roadsters earlier than manufacturing resulted in 2011 and the corporate shifted targeted to the Mannequin S sedan. However Eberhard and Tarpenning would depart the corporate earlier than that epochal product’s launch.
Eberhard mentioned he was “voted off the island.” In 2009, he publicly accused Musk of mismanaging Tesla, amongst different issues, resulting in some court docket battles. Tarpenning additionally left forward of the Mannequin S launch, however mentioned he nonetheless talks to Musk sometimes.