Tesla Motors, The Visionary Dream of Elon Musk [Futures & Risks]
At AbsoluteReg, we don't just write on private plates, we do take an interest in wider matters as well. I have to be honest with you: when I think of a Tesla car my mind expands and my senses get heightened. Actually, it’s enough to read something about the company and I feel my interest growing! If you feel the same and you want to know more about the most interesting company of the hour, stick with us. In the rows below we’ll have a heart-to-heart about Tesla Motors and the cars it produces.
First, I think it’s important to know that Tesla Motors was founded in 2003 by Elon Musk and a few other car enthusiasts who wanted to show the world a whole new view on the matter. These are the visionaries that were laughed by an entire industry (at first) but got to prove everyone wrong. These are the heroes of our times and the people who may get us closer to the flying car in the not-so-far future.
Tesla Motors is the company that took Nikola Telsa’s dream of a powerful electric engine and made it into a wonderful, smooth, and bad-ass-looking reality. After all, the modern models send chills down your spine and make us dream of aerospace shuttles and comfort. Of course, they are still fighting the industry, but people start to see the advantage in having an electric car that actually works.
It’s important to note that before Elon Musk got his hands on it, the electric car was not such a big deal. Actually, I think it is best we learn a bit about how it evolved.
The Rise to Power of the Electric Car
The idea of an electric car is definitely not new. It all started in the 1880s when inventors all over the world started toying with the idea of a vehicle operated by an engine and a battery. However, it took until the second half of the 19th century to get a practical model.
The 19th Century
In the US, the 19th century brought a bright future for this type of vehicles as sales were on the rise and about one-third of vehicles on the road were electric. This was possible because the newly-invented gasoline cars were difficult to drive and the exhaust was unpleasant. In comparison with the silent, easy-to-drive, and ecological electric vehicles, it didn’t look like there was any chance for the gasoline vehicle.
The 20th Century
Inventors like Ferdinand Porsche and Thomas Edison took high interest in electric cars and they worked on improving the engine and the level of comfort. However, Henry Ford managed to administer a powerful blow to the industry when he released the Model T – a gas-operated car that was easier to drive and readily available.
The drop in cost and the fact that Charles Kettering introduced the electric starter turned the wheels of fate towards gasoline cars and it brought us to today, when all the cars we see are powered by fuel. Because gasoline was more available than electricity, by 1935 the idea of an electric vehicle was completely buried.
Still, the idea remained dormant, and when the prices of the gasoline started soaring up (about 1970s), it was brought back to life by companies like General Motors, American Motor Company, and even NASA helped (with the electric lunar module). However, the first vehicles were slow (max 45 miles per hour) and short-ranged (around 40 miles).
Environmental concerns dug up the idea of an electric vehicle in the 1990s, but the costs were too high so the prototypes never made the market (even though they had better performance).
The 21st Century
The start of the new century found the world a better place with the rise in power of the hybrid designs. Even more, in 2006, a small Silicon Valley startup announced they want to produce luxury electric cars that could go over 200 miles on a single charge. The name of this small startup was Tesla Motors.
As we already know, Tesla was successful in their endeavour, but they also inspired the industry so, nowadays, customers can choose from a wide range of designs. Still, Tesla remains the best electric cars producers in the world!
The Company: Short History
Now that you know a bit about the ups and downs of electric cars through history, let’s take a look at the one company that was the main game-changer: Tesla Motors.
The company started in 2003 and was founded by two American entrepreneurs (Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning). The name honors the Serbian inventor and genius, Nikola Tesla, and their main purpose was the development of a reliable electric car.
The company got funding from a variety of sources, but it really started its climb when Elon Musk, the PayPal co-founder decided to join and pump funds. Starting with 2004, Elon Musk was the chairman of the company and took over as CEO starting with 208. Now he represents a bunch of companies and industries involved in innovation and exploration.
The first fully electric car released by Tesla was the Roadster, which could keep going for 245 miles (394 km) on a single charge. It also could accelerate to 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 4 seconds and it could get to 125 miles (200 km) per hour. When you read the numbers, you notice the Roadster can be easily compared to a gasoline sports car. However, the car was incredibly expensive, thus inaccessible for the large public.
In 2012, Tesla stopped producing the Roadster, and released the Model S on the market (which is highly acclaimed even today). The sedan came with three different battery options (for different ranges) and placed the batteries in front of the car, underneath the floor, thus improving the handling of the car due to a lower centre of gravity. This is the design that put Tesla on the map and allowed the public to understand the efficiency and power of the Tesla cars. But we’ll talk more about the cars a bit later. Now, I think it’s enough to know that the Model S is considered world’s bestselling plug-in car with 197,600 units sold globally between 2012 and 2017.
Under Elon Musk, the Tesla Company registered revenue of $US7.00B in 2016 and has over 33,000 employees as of 2017. Not to mention that it already put the basis for a more environment-friendly culture who likes modern technology.
Why are Electric Cars the Future?
Of course, you motor heads are going to need an explanation. After all, why do we need a car that doesn’t make any noise (no thrill since you can’t hear the engine roar), is quite expensive, and doesn’t feature that gasoline smell when you fill the tank? Even more, it has to the audacity of coming with increased storage space and lots of modern gadgets!
Well, if you’re not into its looks (although I don’t really know how you can’t like it) you should know two worrying facts.
Pollution is on the Rise
Yes, transportation is a major factor in today’s risen levels of pollutants in the air we breathe, and driving a more environmentally-friendly car can help reduce the toxic chemical elements we put in the air (CH4, CO2 and N2O).
If you’re not convinced pollution is a serious problem, take a look at the infographic below:
According to recent studies, drivers, commuters, and people who live near major roadways will die faster and will have more health problems because of the high level of pollution. But the entire population is affected by something we know as the Greenhouse Effect (which creates the Global Warming problem). This leads to a wide range of climate changes that affect our daily lives and, in the end, it can completely eradicate mankind and our planet from existence.
The oil industry fights a huge battle trying to mislead the population into believing global warming isn’t a real thing. You’ve probably heard lots of pros and cons opinions, but according to science, it is a real process and it affects the future of our planet.
It was proven that the average level of temperature today is with about 1°C hotter than it used to be in the Pre-Industrial norm. While to us, this number seems insignificant, right now there is a debate between scientists, trying to establish how high this number can get before we go through dramatic changes. There is even a treaty between 100+ countries to keep the limit to 2°C increase, but is this enough? Of course, opinions are divided into those who believe we can go way beyond this limit and those who fear that if we reach it, it may mean the end of the world as we know it.
The main culprit for this temperature increase is the burning of fossil fuel like crude oil, natural gas, and coal. When we burn this type of fuel, we put more CO2 into the atmosphere, thus creating the greenhouse effect. This means that there is a direct correlation between the temperature rise and the way we live our lives (as it can be seen in the graphic below).
Over the last century, as the number of cars increased and the world industry went through its boom phase, the levels of atmospheric CO2 levels got to 403ppm (it used to be under 300!). This means that our atmosphere is now .04% carbon and this can be the best explanation for the temperatures and effects we see today.
Oil is about to Run Out
Gasoline is extracted from oil (also known as petroleum or crude oil), which is a limited natural resource found in pockets underground. Petrol companies use a lot of energy to extract it, process it, and then sell it as various compounds. The business is highly profitable as we use oil in a wide range of industries, but this only leads to a faster depletion of the existing resources.
As you can imagine, after a few decades of highly-functioning industries all over the world, oil is about to run out. According to science, we consume the equivalent of 11 billion tons of oil each year, and if we continue in this rhythm, we should be running out around 2052. Spooky, right?
I hope now you have a good answer to your ‘why’ question. Of course, you can also consider the technological advantages the Tesla cars offer over the old style gasoline cars.
Tesla Cars’ Technological Advancements
Yes, when you make the comparison, Tesla cars are usually leaps and bounds ahead some of the most modern gasoline cars in the world. But, since I know a simple affirmation won’t convince anyone, I decided to make a small comparison for the segments that matter the most: safety, range and speed, ease of use, and more.
We like to think our cars are safe, but when you check the numbers, an ugly situation is revealed. About 1.3 million people die in car accidents each year, meaning that there are around 3,287 deaths each day. While this may be the way natural selection plays out, Tesla showed the world they can do better.
The cars we regularly drive come with safety features like airbags, seatbelts, and reinforced frames, but the simple fact that they need a gasoline-fueled explosion to start should make you wonder. Still, if you like having your crotch in danger every time you turn the key in the ignition, then it’s your choice.
In terms of safety, the Model S from Tesla was awarded 5.4 stars out of 5 possible by the National Highway Safety Administration. This happened because the car features aerospace-grade bolts that make the frame virtually indestructible. Also, the fact that there’s no engine to get inside the car and tear you to shreds is a huge advantage. This way, the entire front of the car is capable to absorb the shock and, even if the car’s face will be demolished, you won’t get to feel the full impact.
Finally, because the batteries are placed under the car and in front, Model S has a low centre of gravity. This means that it is quite difficult for the car to roll over or get out of the road if another car hits it from the side.
During crash tests, Tesla Model S behaved amazingly which is why it’s the best-rated car in the world in terms of safety.
Cool Fact: Model S is equipped with a Medical grade HEPA air filter that will keep you safe from pollution (removes 99.97% of exhaust pollution), allergens, and even bacteria. Even more, if a bioweapon is released outside, you will be safe in the car, breathing fresh air.
Range & Speed
The main concern when you consider an electric vehicle (or an EV) is the range. How far can you drive before you run out of juice? Well, according to the battery kit you have a Model S can go from 275 miles to 337 miles on one charge. Also, the car is capable of going from 0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds.
The cool (and spooky) thing is that you don’t feel the acceleration like you would in a gasoline car. A Tesla will simply shoot to speed without engine noises or that pull you feel when you press the gas pedal. So it’s almost like you’re in a bullet that was just shot from the barrel – you feel the speed in your gut, not in the way the car reacts.
When it comes to charging, the car can be hooked up to an outlet in your home or garage, or you can use an available supercharger station (which is free to use with Model S). Usually, if you’re using your home network, the battery gets charged overnight, but if you use a supercharger, it takes about 20 minutes.
In developed countries like the US or the UK, you shouldn’t have any problems with finding a charging station. However, this is not true for the rest of the world so make sure to check before you start an adventure.
Ease of Use
One thing that stands out with each Tesla car is the ease of use. The inside makes you feel like you’re in an alien spaceship since there are no buttons, nobs, or other complicated controls. Everything happens using the main touchscreen (which is like an iPad) that can be adjusted to day and night use. Not to mention that everything is designed so even a three-year-old could understand it!
First, if you want the car to do certain things, you have a drawing of the car on your screen. This drawing can be zoomed in and out, rotated, rolled, and so on. When you press on a section of the drawing, the same section of the car will be activated. This way, you can pop the hood, raise or lower the roof, and more. You can also use the screen to get directions or find the best restaurant in the area.
Even cooler, you can use a smartphone app to interact with your car remotely. The app gives the car’s position, battery status, opens the sunroof, honks the horn, or flashes the lights. You can also use it to adjust climate settings
Driving is Fun
Yes, I know you’ll say that driving is already fun, but when you get to travel in a car as smooth as a Tesla, you’ll understand the true meaning of fun! Not to mention that you have access to a full self-driving system (actually, Tesla’s autopilot is the most advanced on the market right now). This is great for your safety and makes driving a fantastic experience you’ll want to share with friends and family.
Another cool thing you need to know is that software updates are done over-the-air and in the background so you don’t have to worry about downloading and installing anything. Also, Tesla fixes any software or hardware problems that started in the factory, for free.
The Roadster vs. Model 3
Right now, Tesla Motors produces four different models: Model S, Model X, Model 3, and the Roadster (their newest model). Model S is a sedan and is designed to be safe, easy to drive, and downright amazing, Model X is an SUV designed for family use, Model 3 is designed to be affordable while still offering the Tesla quality, and the Roadster wants to be the fastest car in the world.
Quick Info: Both Model 3 and the Roadster are still not on the market at the moment I am writing this piece.
Now, since the Model 3 and the Roadster are the latest designs, I think it’s best to make a short comparison between the two. While they are not designed for the same target market, they are still Tesla products so you may want to know what makes them tick.
It is simpler (in order to be more affordable) but it is still the safest car in its class. It is also smaller than Model S (designed for 5 adults) and can be bought starting with $35,000 in its simplest version. The vehicle supports a range of 220 miles on one charge and can go from 0 to 60 mph in about 5.6 seconds.
You will also have to pay for using a supercharger (pay per use) and the front and rear cargo volume sums to 15 cu ft. Finally, this model only comes with a 15-inch touchscreen display (no driver display) but you still have access to WiFi and cool features.
Designed for regular people
220 miles range on one charge
Goes to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds
Smaller than Model S
Less storage space in the trunk
Only one touchscreen
Supercharge stations aren’t free to use
It is a different breed of car (even though it follows the same design lines as the Model S and Model 3). This beastie is designed for speed (should reach 60 mph in 1.9 seconds) and is supposed to feature a range of 620 miles. Tesla promises that the Roadster will get to 250+ mph, which is impressive for an EV.
Unlike Model 3, the base price is set at $200,000+ but, given the fact that this is a supercar, it’s to be expected. Even more, it holds 4 seats, which is unusual for super-fast cars. In true Tesla fashion, the car is the safest in its class and can be transformed into a convertible whenever you want.
Overall, the Roadster and Model 3 are designed for two different categories of people but they do have two things in common: maximum road safety and performance. I can’t wait to see both of them on the streets and, with Model 3, I think more and more people will want to make the switch to an EV.
Fastest EV on the market
Holds 4 uber-comfortable seats
Transforms into a convertible
620 miles range
Not designed for everyone
The Future According to Tesla
If we follow the design development and the level of software and sensors in the newest cars, you’ll notice a leaning towards the driverless car. Actually, the future envisioned by Tesla doesn’t have us sitting behind a wheel and cursing everyone else around. Even more, it doesn’t have us sitting in traffic jams or looking for parking spaces.
The autopilot feature developed by Tesla sees a world where cars are completely automatic, thus eliminating traffic accidents. This will happen because we will be able to remove the human error factor from the equation. While humans are amazingly fine-tuned machines and our brain is capable of many wonderful things, driving is a daunting task that doesn’t offer enough challenge. This is when we tend to multitask while driving or we ignore warnings regarding alcohol consumption or level of alertness. And, according to several studies, human error, in different shapes and situations, is the cause of over 90% of traffic incidents.
No Traffic Congestion
Because the cars will be able to communicate with each other, they will know the fastest route to your destination. Even more, because human error is out of the equation, cars will be able to drive faster and safer, taking us to and from work in just a few minutes.
Right now, we live in a crowded world, with lots of traffic and transportation problem and the image below shows you just how big our traffic-related problems really are.
According to the study performed by TomTom, it looks like congestion levels are on the rise and people spend 46% more time in the car when there’s a jam. Elon Musk himself calls traffic a soul-destroying thing and he made a mission out of eradicating this problem when all cars will have a reliable automatic pilot.
Finally, a car will be able to find a parking spot by itself. It will also be capable to go charge itself and it will come pick you up whenever you need it. You’ll simply call your car and ask it to come pick you up. This way, moving from point A to point B in a car will become a pleasure as you can work, watch movies, listen to music, or just chill until you get where you need to be.
Improvement in Infrastructure
Tesla is planning to build a 3D tunnel network that will fluidize traffic by moving cars from one point to another with high-speed platforms. It will be more or less like a subway for cars where there will be no speed limits.
This will reduce the acute lack of parking spaces we deal with today, but the project requires a vast network of underground tunnels that are equipped with elevators that climb up to street level and other high-level technologies. It’s also a way to speed up transportation and reduce traffic jams.
Making Sustainable Energy Easier to Access
Most people see Tesla Motors solely as a car company, but there’s so much more to it. Elon Musk and his associates are interested in making the world a better place by making sustainable energy (such as solar power) more readily accessible. Right now, the company is focused on producing affordable equipment for harnessing, storing, and distributing solar energy for large communities. And, one of the newest products in this category is the famous solar roof.
After all, part of their mission is the following phrase: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Tesla’s mission is ‘to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible’. Now we covered the main benefits Tesla cars bring to our comfort but we should also talk about how sustainable transport can be the answer when it comes to our home planet.
As I already mentioned, the environmental impact of our current technologies is huge, but not in a good way. However, if Tesla and Elon Musk manage to make their dreams a reality, our planet will get to benefit the most. The level of air pollution will be reduced as we will have fewer chemicals leaking into the atmosphere. And by making transportation a shared experience even when you’re in a personal car, we will need to focus less on infrastructure and get to focus on bringing back the green in the cities.
Even more Elon Musk’s dreams and vision already overcomes Tesla Motors. He also created SpaceX, an aerospace company to could lay the foundations of humans colonizing the space. This way, in the case of a natural disaster, our species could live on, on a different planet. But we don’t really need to wait for our planet to be destroyed since the idea of space exploration is as old as the first human who looked up and saw the stars.
Elon Musk’s vision reaches beyond most humans can imagine and takes us places we thought we could never go. Even if it doesn’t happen in our lifetime, we get to see the start of one of mankind’s biggest wishes.
Improving Battery Capacity
Tesla works on making the batteries used for cars smaller and more powerful. If they manage to do this, and manage to maintain the price (or make it more affordable) the cost of the cars will drop. They can also maintain the price, but increase the range and power which will make Tesla cars impressive competitors for most sport cars out there today.
Speaking of batteries, Tesla is also focused on making its solar storage systems more efficient. This way, we can look forward towards a future where most homes will be off the grid, using sustainable energy.
New Car Models
As you can see, the company has huge plans and it’s inspiring to see them so brave when it comes to the future. However, in order to stay sustainable, Tesla still needs to sell cars, and for this, they plan on launching new models.
For now, besides the Model 3 and the Roadster, Tesla also plans to release a pickup truck, an autonomous minibus which you can share with your neighbours or colleagues, and even a semi-truck. Of course, these are just ideas Elon Musk let slip, but I believe any new models from Tesla will be more than welcomed in the market.
Where’s the Problem?
If you managed to get to this point in the article, you’re probably wondering why there aren’t more EVs on the streets. Why are we still driving cars that pollute our air and work based on highly flammable substances?
Well, Tesla’s mission is still at the beginning and many people don’t see the big picture. Even more, the auto industry is still highly dependent on the oil industry and there is serious money in play. Not to mention that governments all over the world are not ready to implement a safe infrastructure for EVs.
Right now, the only countries where it is profitable to drive an electric vehicle are the developed ones. Sadly, countries that are in development or third world countries still fight other problems so they don’t really care about implementing a better infrastructure with charging stations. While having electric cars on the streets would mean less pollution and more money in people’s pockets, the costs required for the infrastructure are quite huge. This stops the progress and I don’t think we’ll see an improvement anytime soon.
The Public Opinion
Right now, there is a huge battle happening between the giant automotive industry that runs on fossil fuels and Tesla. It’s a real-life David and Goliath situation and you can see it spread all over the world if you follow the media. Here is a summary that can give you an idea of the type of news to follow:
3 Model S cars caught on fire – in spite the fact that there are over 250,000 gasoline car fires per year, in the US alone, the media focused on these 3 fires. Of course, the public wasn’t informed that the fires happened only after the cars were crashed at huge speeds and their drivers walked away unharmed.
Electric cars are slow – even if all Tesla cars are powerful and reach speeds only sport cars can, the general public opinion is still that EVs are slow. This is based on previous attempts to release an electric car and, of course, the idea is fuelled by the automotive industry.
Future models aren’t reliable – if you go through the proposed future models, you’ll find designs for bigger cars, even an electric truck. This put the specialists on fire and everyone says this sort of design isn’t reliable because it would require huge amounts of energy. While this may be true now, Tesla is continuously working on improving battery capacity and power so who knows what the future may bring?
Delays in production Goals with Model 3 cars – According to Tesla, there were some bottlenecks in the production process and this is why it took them two years more to deliver the expected goal of 100,000 cars. This happens with many other car companies (and not only), but the media was all over this too.
Tesla is an unprofitable Company – For now, the main opinion in financial circles is that Elon Musk makes too many promises without actually delivering (besides the Model 3 delay there was also a delay on the solar rooftop product). This is why most stock brokers will advise people to bet against Tesla, but if you have a bit of vision you won’t listen. Tesla has a great future ahead, but like every company in development, it struggles with some problems. After all, who would’ve thought a startup that never produced cars would go this far?
In the end, Tesla is the best example of determination we could all have. Yes, things don’t always go your way, but if you give up midway, you’ll never get anywhere!
Other Amazing Projects
Tesla is not just about cars; it’s part of a culture that wants to improve life on Earth by reducing toxic industries and encouraging the use of natural, sustainable resources. It’s also part of a dream that, someday, will send people into space, in the exploration of the great unknown.
So, in order to truly understand the power that stood behind the creation of an amazing EV, I think it’s important to also talk about the other two amazing projects designed by Elon Musk: SpaceX and Tesla Solar Roofs.
The company was founded in 2002 and now has over 5,000 employees working on creating advanced vehicles that will take mankind into space. The main goal of the company is the colonization of other planets which will reduce the strain our existence puts on Earth and will open the gates to a whole new era.
It may sound a bit too science-fiction even for current times, but the company managed to achieve several important milestones in the industry. First, SpaceX designed, build, and launched the Falcon rocket, which is the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket that delivered a commercial satellite to Earth orbit.
It is also the only private company to deliver cargo to and from the ISS (International Space Station). SpaceX achieved this goal in May 2012, using the Dragon spacecraft, and since then, the Dragon made several trips with the same route.
In 2017, the company managed the first reflight of an orbital class rocket and they don’t plan on stopping here. Right now, SpaceX engineers and specialists work on putting together the Falcon Heavy, which is a three-stage rocket. The plan is to use it to launch huge satellites and cargo, but it’s also destined to start missions that will go beyond our solar system.
Overall, SpaceX is already changing the general picture of space exploration by paving the road for other private companies in this industry. It’s also a grand project that promises to deliver ground-breaking opportunities that can be our salvation, if something will happen to our planet.
Tesla Solar Roofs
If SpaceX is a separate company, the Solar Roof is a part of the Tesla Company. This is a more down-to-earth project of Elon Musk’s and it stands in perfect alignment with the mission to deliver sustainable, green energy to the world.
The idea behind the Solar Roof is to offer homeowners the possibility to collect and store Sun energy without using solar panels as we know them. Today’s solar panels are bulky, difficult to maintain, and don’t provide 100% efficiency, which is why Tesla created glass solar tiles that can be mounted as a regular roof (or a Solar Roof).
How is this Working?
The Solar Roof is designed with two types of glass tiles: solar and non-solar. This helps you customize the amount of energy your home needs, because an entire roof of solar tiles may produce a lot more energy than you can handle. Both types of tiles look the same from street level; this way, you don’t have to sacrifice your home’s elegant design for the sake of green energy.
Even more, each tile is made of tempered glass, which is why Tesla offers a lifetime warranty when it comes to durability. These tiles are designed to resist a class 4 hailing which means they are three times more durable than regular tiles. But they’re not just built to resist hailing; the Tesla solar tiles have the best wind and fire rating as well.
However, when it comes to power, the warranty is offered for 30 years; which is also the maximum amount of time needed to recover the initial investment from saving money on energy (according to Consumer Reports).
Once mounted, the tiles will start absorbing sunrays and turning the energy into electricity. The roof is connected to an integrated Powerwall battery that stores the energy collected during the day so you can use it at night.
Is this a Viable Product for Homeowners?
While the concept and the idea behind it are amazing, regular people must also consider the general cost of such a product. Of course, the cost is different from one home to another, as we all have various energy needs (this means the total number of solar tiles will be different for every implementation).
For now, the cost of a Solar Roof can be pretty steep for the regular consumer, but if you can afford it, there are perks you shouldn’t ignore. However, there are some considerations homeowners must include in their decision such as:
Time you plan to own the house - If you’re not planning on staying put for the rest of your life, you may not have the chance to recover your investment.
Sun exposure - the rule with solar products is that the longer they are exposed to direct Sun, the more efficient they are. For instance, if you live in the torrid and temperate climate, solar tiles may work great, but people living in the frigid zones may have problems with collecting Sun energy.
Tile efficiency when actually installed on your home – We are still waiting for the product to be reviewed in real-life by homeowners and businesses.
Maintenance costs and level of energy produced (in regards to batteries and other storage devices)
Overall, the Tesla Solar Roof is a revolutionary product that can change the way we get and consume electricity.