Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Oct 20

Tesla Roadster and the Electric Car Future

Posted in Battery Technology | Electric Cars | Future Technology | Transportation

Tesla RoadsterInterview with Martin Eberhard, Engineer and Founder of Tesla Motors. The company was co-founded in 2003 with fellow Engineer Marc Tarpenning. Their plans to develop electric cars were met with skeptical curiosity. The release of the Tesla Roadster has proven a success even though the price tag is still around US $100,000. Some ‘green’ celebrities like George Clooney have been spotted taking a ride in one. This interview by Plenty asks some questions about their vision for an electric car future and plans to introduce a mainstream electric vehicle in 2009.

Plenty:

Will electric cars ever become cheap enough, or have the battery life, to compete in the mainstream auto market?

Eberhard:

They already have the battery life, and it’ll only get better with time. And yes, they will become cheap enough, gradually.

Plenty:

We hear that you’re going to introduce your four-door sedan model and that that’s going to be significantly cheaper. How much cheaper can we expect it to be, and how are you going to keep the costs down?

Eberhard:

We hope to come out with a second car in around 2009, and the base amount will be half the price of the Roadster. We’re aiming for an under $50,000 entry level price for that car, which is very difficult for us to achieve as a start-up company. Making cars is expensive. But the way we’re getting the price down largely has to do with building our own factory rather than paying somebody else to assemble the car. And then also taking advantage of everything we’ve learned making the Roadster and applying that to the new car.

Plenty:

Will the sedan, like the Roadster, be able to do 0-60 in 4 seconds?

Eberhard:

It won’t be 4 seconds, but it’ll still be pretty darn quick. We think we can do under 6 seconds, probably, for 0 to 60. It’s a bigger car.

Plenty:

Could you tell us a bit about the solar power option you’re offering?

Eberhard:

There’s a magic synergy between solar generation and electric cars. When you buy an electric car you wonder about where the electricity comes from: Is it burning coal? Is it any better than the gasoline-powered car? The answer actually is yes, it is still better than the gasoline-powered car because there’s less pollution produced. But you can skirt the whole argument if, at the same time that you buy your car, you also buy solar generation that offsets what your car consumes. When you buy the Roadster, we will be offering an option to buy solar generation and have it attached on the roof of your house. During the daytime that will generate electricity, spin your meter backwards, dump electricity into the grid. At nighttime, when your car is charging, it spins the meter forward and charges up your car.

Plenty:

Electric cars have failed before, most recently in the 1990s. How are you going to be different?

Eberhard:

Compared to the cars that existed in the nineties, the real difference is the approach we’ve taken. We’re not trying to make, as our first car, an ultra low-cost people mover. We’re trying to make the best car we can. With that mentality we have a whole range of technologies available to us that wouldn’t have been otherwise: lithium ion batteries, for example; designing our own custom super high-performance motor; our own highly efficient electronics to convert the energy from the batteries and put it into the motor. All of those kinds of things you couldn’t do if you were making a cheap car. What we’ve produced is a car that doesn’t ask the buyer, the driver, to compromise. It’s a beautiful, fun, quick car with a very long driving range that is appealing in its own right as a car, which is not what electric cars did in the past. You had to be kind of a hero to drive one before.

Plenty:

Three years ago, when everyone was driving SUVs, what made you decide to build an electric car?

Eberhard:

Maybe it’s just arrogance or something. I assume I wasn’t the only one in the world that wanted a car that was a great sports car and also efficient. As an electrical engineer, I know that you can make an electric car that rocks if you want to. I looked around said “Isn’t somebody making that car?” And the answer was really no. I know that you’re writing about some of the other electric car companies in your magazine, but as far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t manage to buy a car from any of them. Nobody else was making cars that one could actually buy. Or else I would’ve just bought one and I would’ve been a happy customer. But since it didn’t exist, I said, “Can I start that company?” I know how to start companies; I’ve done it before, successfully, a couple times now. And I thought, well, if I can figure out how to take Silicon Valley know-how about how to fund a company, and apply that to this problem, then we have something.

Plenty:

Is this the beginning of the end of the gas car?

Eberhard:

I think so. I’m not sure if we’re the beginning of the end, or if running out of oil is the beginning of the end, or global warming is the beginning of the end. But this is certainly part of the same constellation of issues. It’s time for us to find a different solution than burning gasoline.

Plenty:

Does this mean that the Big Three is going to have to start switching over to electric cars, sooner rather than later?

Eberhard:

I think so, or else I’ll have to buy them out later when I’m bigger than they are.

Plenty:

Are you profitable already?

Eberhard:

Heavens no. First of all, this car is not the answer. We expect to make more cars to reach more people, and eventually make a big dent in the amount of oil consumed in this country. But you have to start someplace. It’s one step at a time. You have to make a product that you can actually get on the road, to sell and make money, and that allows you to make another model and a more ambitious company. We hope down the road to have cars that we can all drive. It’s not going to be next year or the year after that. Our next model car will be a lot lower priced and much more accessible, and the one after that will be lower priced and useful in other ways. I’m not sure what that one will be. Is it a smaller car? Is a bit more of a people mover? I don’t know, I haven’t decided yet. The goal is to become a real car company and sell lots of cars.

» Source: Plenty Magazine

  • kent beuchert

    Tesla chose li ion laptop batteries, total cost over $20,000. Batteries requires hours to recharge, making public charging stations impossible for these vehicles. Tesla should have chosen the Altair NanoSafes, which don’t require the bizzaro battery pack monitoring and HVAC system his car requires so the batteries last beyond a year or so. The NanoSafes can be recharged in less than 10 minues and last probably 5 times longer than the 8631(!) laptop batteries in the Tesla, making them 5 times cheaper. Even if one put a lot of miles on the Tesla and managed to log 100,000 miles before the batteries needed replacing (almost impossible), battery cost per mile is still an exorbitant 20 cents. Drive a normal 50,000 miles and the cost per mile is 40 cents, or the equivalent of $12 a gallon gasoline, plus the electricity cost of around 2 cents per mile (assuming 10 cents per kWhr). I don’t think the public is screaming for $12 a gallon gasoline.

  • Kennth Shepherd

    I have an idea for electicity generation that needs to be proven. This device could make large or small amounts of electrcity. I neeed funding to prove the idea. I need to build a protoype. It took me two years to devise the harness for the source that turns the large generator.

    469-254-5132

  • LJ

    I think we’ll see the first widely adopted electric car with the GM Volt. read more at the the enthusiast’s site http://www.gm-volt.com

  • Paul Henson

    Here’s an idea for all manufacturers: make the battery packs removable (and standardised).

    Instead of electric vehicles all plugging in at home, the service stations would replace them just as we have been ‘replacing’ conventional fuel, and recharge them at all hours.

    Energy demand could be managed more efficiently, with on and off peak power production being ‘smoothed out’, to help prevent overloading.

    The customer wouldn’t have to wait for recharging, enabling longer trips.

    Anyone want to pay me for this idea?
    Cheers.

  • preston marshall

    Well the company is definitely on the right track. The car its self is remarkable. The specs on the car meet the needs of every young race enthusiast out there. The only problem is that the average joe will never be able to afford this price. The only way to solve this, which has slready been stated is to sell more cars. Our government can drastically help if someone grows the balls to put there foot down and get things working. What needs to be done is that there needs to be a tax cut for those who opt to purchase the car. This will make the incentive to kick the sales off on the car and start the process of making our nation independent for the oil industry.

  • Chevy Volt Lover

    The most up to date Chevy Volt site on the web:

    http://www.chevy-volt.net

  • guy

    I just made my deposit for my new Tesla. Yes, the battery pack is expensive right now, but by the time I can get close to putting 100k on it, the cost should have come down….. Now for the waiting game.

    P.s. G.M. has the ability to put a GREAT EV on the road tomorrow… but then they would have to give all that money back to the oil companies.

  • Just Watching

    Those that can afford it don’t need it and those that need it can’t afford it. Very limited market for the all electric.

  • Cgann

    Electric cars… maybe. Electric trucks… no. The fact of the matter is a battery will not propel an 80,000 lb 18 wheel truck. The technology simply is not there and won’t be for at least 20+ years. Electric cars may become reality in the next 10 years for cities and commuters. But they will not in the rural areas and the mid-west because they simply don;t have enough range. 50 to 100 miles is not enough for most people in the mid-west. Secondly … if the public were to begin driving electric cars in mass the grid simply could not support that much drain on the system. We do not have enough power plants to replace 12 million barrels of oil per day equivalent in electricity.

    Let us deal in the reality not fantasy. EVs becoming “mainstream” may be a reality in the future…but not for a long time….a very long time.

  • Rob

    A lot of information on how to build an electric car, including cost cutting measures and design tips, can be found on Frank Didik’s website at: http://www.didik.com/didik_ev.htm. In particular, check out the section entitled “How to Build an Electric Car”, “Didik Turtle or How to build a two person electric vehicle in 14 hours” and “Critical and accurate assessment of electric vehicles”. He is the first to truly mention the pro’s and con’s of electric cars and an excellent history directory of electric cars, starting in the 1800’s. Many years ago, Didik was the found of the Electric Car Society.

  • Clifford McCarthy

    Not a lot of people will ever be able to afford one of these new cars even though there old car is probably slower. People forget about the less fortunate people who cannot afford to help the environment in such a way. Maybe helping these used and old cars could be the answer. I know that the cash for clunkers scheme is up and running and I must say it does help some people to upgrade. Think we are trying to go forward to fast in the car industry and should help less fortunate people help the environment without loosing something.

  • David Snyder Sr

    Let me get this straight? you can put an alternator and voltage regulator on a gas engine to charge the batteries, and this can’t be done to an electric drive car? I mean come on the alternator don’t know and don’t care what turns it. Gene


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