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⚡ Tesla's Role in the EV Industry

Watt It Takes

Photo by Michael Förtsch / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Emily Kirsch
Guest: Martin Eberhard | Co-Founder & Founding CEO | Tesla
Category: ⚡ Renewable Energy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:52] “I credit all of the electric vehicle industry […] to Tesla, 100%. There was nobody making electric cars when we started that and nobody believed in it. And if you went and talked to people in the auto industry, first thing they would tell you is electric cars are dead. And what the public knew about electric cars is they're dead and they suck. And we cured that.”

[2:39] “The auto industry would tell you that lithium ion batteries would never be used in cars. They are too complicated, too hard to manage, etc. And today, there isn't anybody that makes electric cars that doesn't have lithium ion batteries. I would say that 100% of the EV industry today all traces back to Tesla and all traces back to that Tesla Roadster.”

[21:19] “I started looking at batteries actually in the late 90s, because of the Rocket eBook. So our first ebook used what was then the best kinds of batteries for handheld equipment, which was nickel metal hydride batteries […]. They had definitely their limitations. And as we designed the second generation Rocket eBook, which was actually the one that was in development, when we were acquired, we use lithium ion batteries, which were the newest technology and clearly better than everything that came before. We also understood that they required a lot more management than every other kind of battery that came before them. […] That was one of the key pieces of starting Tesla was could we actually build a battery system for car using the same technology and just scaling up that battery management from two cells to nearly 7,000 cells?”

[22:31] “I had been thinking about this for a while, not originally as an idea for starting a company but more for what kind of car would I drive next. I wanted a car that was fun to drive, […] but I didn't want to buy something that was lousy gas mileage, and preferably somebody who didn't even use fossil fuels. That's where I started. And so I wanted to know, for myself, what was the right technology. And I spent a lot of time studying every possible way I could think of moving a car […] with gasoline or diesel, or some kind of hybrid or […] with the electricity made from various sources, like natural gas, or coal, or even diesel. And then also looking very closely at hydrogen fuel cells, which is where the auto industry had just recently moved. They had basically all given up on electric cars.”

[23:31] “I did this math, where I looked at the actual energy content of the source fuel […] and the efficiency of converting that into a fuel that goes into a vehicle, and then the efficiency of the vehicle itself. And I could compute the well to wheel energy efficiency, from the source field to the actual driving vehicle. […] And […] the more I looked at it, the more it became obvious that the electric cars weren't just better than all the other choices, but much better. And that hydrogen fuel cells were a dead end, that the efficiency of that system was no better than gasoline cars. The carbon footprint would be the same.”

[44:15] “It's clear to me that electric cars will live or die by their batteries. Everything else is easy. If you pick the wrong kind of motor, if your motor controller isn't perfect, you'll be okay. It's not it's not ideal, but you'll be fine. But the batteries are the thing that matters for a bunch of reasons. The battery is the most expensive, least safe, heaviest, least reliable component in an electric car. And if you're not focused on the batteries, if you're not building the car around the batteries, you're doing it wrong. So after I left Tesla, and after a couple of years of various kinds of public speaking, consulting, I took a job for a while with Volkswagen, helping them to work on a battery program internally that came to fruition. […] And I continue to think about batteries since then up until now. Thinking about how to make the battery system less expensive, more reliable, less heavy. And also trying to encourage the people who are making electric cars to focus on building the car around the battery.”

[46:12] “Electric vehicles, I'm very positive about, because they're making a difference in terms of carbon footprint. I'm very nervous about autonomous vehicles, because we don't know how to make very complex systems provably correct. […] If the software crashes on your self-driving car, the car crash can kill you, or somebody else. And that's what concerns me. I have practically never seen a software update for my computer, for my iPad, for my iPhone, that didn't have some bugs in it somewhere. And even on my Tesla Model S […] with those over the air updates, we get new bugs that come along. […] So I'm just really skeptical about our ability to make software safe enough, even if you could argue that it's already safer than human drivers, which I think is debatable. I think another piece that I'm concerned about is the ability to hack it. And malicious actors hacking into that system, whether it's over the network, or by hacking it on the road.”

[48:12] “The [greatest leaps] I hope for […] are all in the battery space. Right now, I think we're on a trajectory, where electric cars are going to be just playing cheaper than gasoline cars in the next three, four years, maybe five years. But I think there's lots of room for that to get much, much better, faster. And then related to that, I think there's lots of innovation to be done on the energy generation side so that we can stop making these coal fired plants, even if they are a better carbon footprint than gasoline cars, we can do better.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify (Original Title: "Tesla Co-Founder & Founding CEO Martin Eberhard")
🕰️ 55 min | 🗓️ 08/31/2021
✅ Time saved: 53 min

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