While Martin Sheen and others ponder Who Killed the Electric Car? a group of Silicon Valley millionaires is trying to answer the next question: Who will resurrect the electric car? Tesla Motors is the result, a manufacturer of vehicles than run 100 percent on electricity.
The company gets its name from Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current, who went toe-to-toe with Thomas Edison (and won) to prove whether AC or DC was the preferred method of transporting electricity over great distances. In the same light, Tesla Motors is trying to prove that electricity is not only capable of transporting automobiles great distances but also that electric cars can be fun to drive.
The company is the brainchild of Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning and PayPal founder Elon Musk. The founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, are also investors. This fresh blood from Silicon Valley is further evidence that Tesla is an entirely different type of car company.
Tesla went about creating its first vehicle with the theory that nobody wanted electric cars because nobody had created an electric car worth buying. So they sought to correct the many perceived electric-car problems like range, recharging times, styling and performance. The company's first product, the Tesla Roadster, is capable of going about 250 miles between charges, which is a drastic improvement from the GM EV1's 60-90-mile range. A complete recharge is accomplished in less than 2 hours. (The EV1 took 5.) Recharging is accomplished via regenerative braking, a home recharging unit and an optional portable recharger.
As for styling and performance, Tesla chose a $100,000 sports car to enter the market as a way to establish "performance DNA" that would trickle down to less expensive models. Based on the Lotus Elise, the British-built Tesla Roadster is lightweight and svelte, capable of keeping up with other sports cars in its price bracket. Tesla promises 0-60-mph times around 4 seconds and a top speed of more than 130 mph. Throw in handling indicative of its Lotus roots and it should be obvious that the Roadster is one heck of a sports car.
Tesla announced in February 2007 that it would be making a new sport sedan known as the WhiteStar, built at a new factory in New Mexico. The company plans on producing 10,000 units each year at a cost between $50,000 and $65,000 per car. Like the Roadster, it should have a range of about 250 miles, but with battery technology improving, that number could rise.
With growing international attention, including Tesla Roadsters ferrying stars to high-profile events like the Oscars and the rising interest in alternative fuels to combat global warming, this young electric car company could soon be a big name in the automotive industry.