Tesla: Big Dreams, Cars in Space, and the Future of Automotive Excellence
– By Pioneer Auto Museum
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about easy ways to conserve natural resources, with many hopping on the bandwagon of making changes in their life to be more energy-efficient. In the last 20 years or so, car producers have also joined in on the quest to be more sustainable by making huge strides in the development of electric cars, allowing them to be more attainable by the public. Read on to learn more about this growing trend, which doesn’t look to be disappearing anytime soon.
The Rise and Fall of the First Mass-Produced Electric Car in the U.S.
From 1996 to 1999, GM produced an electric vehicle dubbed the EV-1, offering consumers a chance to take part in what was called a “real-world engineering evaluation”. They did this by not selling, but leasing the EV-1 to consumers, making them official participants in a market study into the feasibility of producing and marketing a commuter electric vehicle in select U.S. markets. This was some seriously forward thinking, and was rewarded with positive feedback from those driving the vehicles. But positive feedback can only take a product so far. GM began to wonder about the long- term financial feasibility of the electric car market, citing that it was too small of a niche market to make a profit, and that consumers would ultimately balk at the idea of electric cars. It didn’t help that the car was rather, well, ugly. And so it went, that GM recalled all of the EV-1 models that were on the road in 2003, and subsequently sent the majority of them out to pasture. Or the desert, to be more specific, where they were crushed. About 40 were sent to various museums and educational institutes, with their powertrains deactivated of course, under agreements that they were to never be reactivated and driven on the road again. It is believed that only two intact models remain today, one in the Smithsonian Institution, and the other hiding in the garage of filmmaking legend Francis Ford Coppola. We can only assume that he made GM an offer they couldn’t refuse.
The Beginning of Tesla Motors
To most, that meant the end of the great electric car revolution. A revolution which hadn’t even begun to truly get its tires rolling. But two men felt very differently about the possibility of creating an electric car that could be purchased and adored by the masses. Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, two engineers working in Silicon Valley, created Tesla Motors in July of that same year. The name was derived, and paid homage to Nikola Tesla, a fairly bright man himself (see what we did there). They wanted to make electric cars an affordable, visually appealing commercial success, while also creating models that would rival other high end luxury and sports car models. With the help of some generous investors, including tech mogul Elon Musk, they got to work on what was sure to be a smashing success.
The strategy was to first introduce a sports car that could be sold at a very high margin, to a very high end customer base, which would allow them to use the profits to then finance their more commercial product line. This first model was the 2008 Tesla Roadster, and it was delivered to Elon Musk. It was a beauty in engineering and technological advancement, and would be the catalyst for all things to come for Tesla. The Roadster was the first highway legal serial production all-electric car to use lithium-ion battery cells, and the first production all-electric car to travel more than 200 miles per charge on its lithium ion battery. It accelerated from 0-60 in an astonishing 3.7 seconds, and had all the sexiness of its sports car rivals. That Roadster of Elon’s is now looking down on us from outer space, as it explores the galaxy, set to orbit Mars. But that’s another story for another blog. If you must know now, here’s a link. You can form your own opinion about the accomplishment of launching a $100,000 car into space.
Setting the Standard for Electric Cars
Tesla stopped production of the Roadster in 2012, to focus its efforts on the production of their Model S, and Model X series, vehicles that set the bar for electric cars extremely high, while still being sold at a price point that consumers could afford. The innovations were on full display, and an almost cult-like fan base began to grow. The Model S won Motor Trend’s coveted 2013 Car of the Year honor, as well as landed on Time magazine’s list of 25 best inventions of 2012. The Model X was their first venture into the mid-size crossover segment, and has been a success as well, surpassing 50,000 units sold as of the start of 2018.
On March 31st, 2016, Tesla unveiled what would come to be the standard for electric cars. At a starting price of just $35,000, with sleek interiors and beautiful lines outside, the Model 3 redefined what the future of affordable electric cars could be. And will be. The reservations for this new model began pouring in, with over 325,000 made within the first week. That accounts for about $14 billion in sales. By July 2107, that number had exceeded 500,000. The Model 3 has given consumers new hope that an electrical car revolution is beginning, and over time, will be saving them thousands of dollars a year in energy efficiency.
The sky is the limit for Tesla’s plans for automotive innovation, and even then, who knows how far they can push it? Upcoming models for Tesla include a more affordable version of the Model 3, a semi that can travel up to 500 miles on a single charge, and the rebirth of the Roadster in 2020, which claims to accelerate from 0-60 in a mind-blowing 1.9 seconds. About the only thing faster than that is the pace at which Tesla is setting new standards for technological advancement. We’ll be watching with excitement.
Want to learn more about how Tesla is carving a path to innovative excellence? Check out this super-cool video on the massive production locations they are currently working on, appropriately labeled Gigafactorys.
While the new wave of car innovations is ground breaking, many of our 275 classic cars have already made history! From a 1903 Model-T, to The General Lee, there’s something for everyone at the Pioneer Auto Show. Stop in and see us this summer, and check out the Beardsley electric car that we also have on display! There’s even a Tesla charging station on site, if you need a boost. Seems the Pioneer Auto Show is pretty innovative itself!