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Tesla Motors - The Early Years

Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
The last two links are to articles that are very much worth reading.

J. B. Straubel in Popular Science-- very good reading. I wish there were an update. This piece tells about the electric bicycle he built, and the Porsche 944 he gutted and filled with 800 lbs of lead-acid batteries to achieve an acceleration record.

We need a book on J. B. Straubel.

The first link-- nice report-- wish it was a lot longer--- who is the author, B. Behrend?

The first 2 links are dead.
 

Brando

Active Member
Sep 27, 2016
2,862
1,988
Bainbridge Island, WA
Thanx for that video. I am currently reading "Car Wars" by John Fialka. There is a chapter covering this timeline as well, and the story in the book lines up with the info in this video.

-----------------------
On another note, here's a granular question related to that era that maybe someone who follows this thread would know. I've started penning a series of historical EV articles for cleantechnica.com (here). One idea floating around is to do an "unsung heroes" piece, and Alan Cocconi is a likely target. Here's the question: When Cocconi built the inverter for GMs 'Santana' (which became the progenitor of the EV-1) he used a type of transistor known as a "FET" (Field Effect Transistor). When GM later wanted to use Cocconi to improve on his design for the EV-1 inverter (as the story goes) GM wanted to use a different type of semiconductor called an IGBT (insulated-gate bipolar transistor), which Cocconi balked at doing, and thus was not hired by GM to rework his inverter design (again, as the story goes).

OK, here's the question (really): Elon Musk and others at Tesla have claimed that the inverter they bought the specs to from AC Propulsion had to be extensively re-worked. I'm wondering if anyone knows whether that inverter (used in the tZero) was still using FETs? If so, that might have been one item Tesla was referring to as needing to be reworked.

I know that question may sound trivial, but I'd like to know the answer in terms of how much Cocconi contributed to the modern electric cars (namely Teslas) driving around today.

thanx
Electronics change fast. [ModelS vs Model 3 motors very different, for example] Cocconi was a pioneer. Both JB and Elon give Cocconi a lot of credit. Elon tried to get Cocconi to start a car company, he said he didn't want to do that. I'd suggest internet search

alan cocconi electric car

He is an amazing person/engineer. Just one of the articles you'll find:
AC Propulsion tzero, The Godfather of Modern EVs | CleanTechnica
Read the comments !

one more about founders of Tesla
Will the Real Tesla Founder Please Stand Up?
 
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Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
Brando thank you-- I just finished Darryl Siri's short piece "Will the Real Tesla Founder Stand Up?" And it is neither Musk nor Eberhard! Very nice writing. Thank you again.

And read Nicolas Zart's article AC Propulsion tzero, The Godfather of Modern EVs | CleanTechnica

Very cool! This is short and well-written. Check it out, everyone.

Do read all the comments-- How about the comment at the end, that the Volt and Bolt owe nothing to AC Propulsion--- Author Nicolas Zart says "Pete also rightfully points out that this tzero “… is also the most influential electric vehicle in this century since it inspired and started the clean energy electric car movement.”
BUT Marion Meadsa year ago queries "What an audacious claim coming from Tesla fanatics to lay ancestral claim to all EV's. The EV-1 motors have been excellent performer when Musk was still in diapers. The motors in the Volt and Bolt didn't use Tesla's technology."

How about that? Should we "Tesla Fanatics" (like me) credit Tom Gage and Alan Cocconi for restarting the EV -- or give credit to General Motors for their EV1?

Or to Ferdinand Porsche for his late 1890s design of a hybrid-- with 4 hub-mounted electric motors?
 
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Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
There's a new "origin story" by Business Insider focused on the Roadster development years. A few details seem a little off though, but some stories I've never seen before

Tesla: The Origin Story - Business Insider
Very interesting account. I'm wondering about this: “Michael Marks had invested about $2.5 million in Tesla in 2007 … “

What became of that investment? Elon is given as the number one stockholder, with around 20%, and J. B. Straubel is second, with 333,000 or so shares, around $100 million worth, and cousin Kimbal Musk is third.

I’m wondering what Michael Marks did with his 2.5 million $ investment in Tesla from 2007. Or Zvi?
 
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mspohr

Well-Known Member
Jul 27, 2014
9,131
10,612
California
Brando thank you-- I just finished Darryl Siri's short piece "Will the Real Tesla Founder Stand Up?" And it is neither Musk nor Eberhard! Very nice writing. Thank you again.

And read Nicolas Zart's article AC Propulsion tzero, The Godfather of Modern EVs | CleanTechnica

Very cool! This is short and well-written. Check it out, everyone.

Do read all the comments-- How about the comment at the end, that the Volt and Bolt owe nothing to AC Propulsion--- Author Nicolas Zart says "Pete also rightfully points out that this tzero “… is also the most influential electric vehicle in this century since it inspired and started the clean energy electric car movement.”
BUT Marion Meadsa year ago queries "What an audacious claim coming from Tesla fanatics to lay ancestral claim to all EV's. The EV-1 motors have been excellent performer when Musk was still in diapers. The motors in the Volt and Bolt didn't use Tesla's technology."

How about that? Should we "Tesla Fanatics" (like me) credit Tom Gage and Alan Cocconi for restarting the EV -- or give credit to General Motors for their EV1?

Or to Ferdinand Porsche for his late 1890s design of a hybrid-- with 4 hub-mounted electric motors?
The idea of an electric car goes back more than 100 years and has many "inventors".
I do think we need to give Elon credit for building the first successful EV company (after surviving near death) leading to mass adoption of EVs. Without Elon, all we would have would be the pathetic compliance cars produced by the ICE manufacturers.
 
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Brando

Active Member
Sep 27, 2016
2,862
1,988
Bainbridge Island, WA
Very interesting account. I'm wondering about this: “Michael Marks had invested about $2.5 million in Tesla in 2007 … “

What became of that investment? Elon is given as the number one stockholder, with around 20%, and J. B. Straubel is second, with 333,000 or so shares, around $100 million worth, and cousin Kimbal Musk is third.

I’m wondering what Michael Marks did with his 2.5 million $ investment in Tesla from 2007. Or Zvi?
small correction: Kimbal is Elon's brother
cousin started Solar City
 

Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
The recent history of EVs is fascinating. Check out Wikipedia's piece on the EV1. How many of you knew that GM had an "Impact" in 1990, 50 of them, the prototype for the EV1 of 1996, which they destroyed (they destroyed all 50 of the 1990 Impacts)?

Any of you see the 1990 GM Impact? At the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show? I was there in mid 2000s. I remember a Roadster prototype or early Roadster. Go in the entrance then over to the right, to the Tesla section. They would not let me sit in it. I asked-- and they said no. Kind of turned me off, for about 10 years. Sorry. Guess I don't want to wear out your car by sitting in it for one minute.

From their article: " Alan Cocconi of AC Propulsion designed and built the original drive controller electronics for the Impact, and the design was later refined by Hughes Electronics."

Alan Cocconi! Have any of you met this pioneer? Does Tesla have a plaque to him at their HQ?
 
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Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
So which car would you all rather have, if you could have only one?

An AC propulsion T-Zero like one of the 3 built;
A 1990 GM Impact, one of the 50 they destroyed;
A 1996 early production EV1 with lead-acid batteries (coefficient of drag .19!);
an 1898 Porsche-Löhne benzene-electric hybrid with 4 wheel hub-mounted motors
?

Me, I'm leaning towards the Porsche. Here is from Wikipedia: "The Lohner-Porsche's design was studied by Boeing and NASA to create the Apollo program's Lunar Roving Vehicle. Many of its design principles were mirrored in the Rover's design. The series hybrid concept underpins many modern railway locomotives ..."
 
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Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
The Car That Could: The Inside Story of GM's Revolutionary Electric Vehicle (Hardcover).

There are more than 20 copies available for less than ten dollars on Amazon.com.

I'm reading it again. I read it maybe 15 years ago. It is a good read people!

Amazon.com Review
The story of General Motors' first mass-produced electric car, the EV1 (at first, unfortunately, named the Impact). This project was decades in gestation, the early dreams of pollution and noise-free vehicles taking a long time to progress beyond visionary prototypes. This was partly because of opposition to the concept from oil companies and the automotive industry. Eventually a combination of government prodding and technological advances in battery design made it possible. Schnayerson describes the supportive role of GM chairman Robert Stempel and the tenacity of a group of true-believing engineers who kept the idea alive after Stempel was ousted.

More info: From Publishers Weekly
Hailed as the first practical electric passenger car, General Motors' Impact faces an uncertain future, with doubts about whether a market will materialize for a high-priced auto with significantly limited range and few recharging options. The sleek, small, battery-powered aluminum prototype, which runs silently with no engine or tailpipe, owes its existence to ex-GM chairman Roger Smith, who on Earth Day 1990 publicly declared that GM would mass-produce an electric vehicle (EV).
He then resigned. When his successor, Robert Stempel, was replaced in 1992, the Impact development team of engineers was significantly downsized, and the project seemed dead.
Secret talks initiated by the Impact team with Ford and Chrysler to consider an EV consortium led instead to GM's renewed commitment to the project, which was kept under wraps.
Shaynerson, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, recreates a remarkable, inspiring saga of glitches, unexpected setbacks, power struggles and ingenuity, and in doing so he tells how GM, once stagnant, resistant to technological change and battered by foreign rivals, staged a comeback. Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
 

Brando

Active Member
Sep 27, 2016
2,862
1,988
Bainbridge Island, WA
reminder: TeslaTap.com/links a treasure trove of information
- Not that I'm bias, but when I found this clip, TeslaTap added it to their "links" page. You will enjoy, I'm sure.

side note: It was Alan's yellow T-zero that "sold" both Elon (as an inverster) and JB to join Eberhart and Tarpenning startup Tesla Motors.
AND the yellow T-zero was used to show to all the original potential investors and early Roadster buyers. Alan encourage them to all work together.
and going back to 1980
http://evmuseum.com/ev1_images/1980_GM_Epcot_2003_01.jpg
from
EV1 Museum - General Motors EV1 picture and photo gallery and history
 
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Brando

Active Member
Sep 27, 2016
2,862
1,988
Bainbridge Island, WA
Most have no idea how easily we have been manipulated. This is just one example - autos and oil.
BUT, it certainly could help for the next 30 years as we transition to electrification of transport.
Getting off oil addiction. Walking, biking, and alternative fuels. Do it for yourself - SAVE MONEY.
 
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Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
reminder: TeslaTap.com/links a treasure trove of information
- Not that I'm bias, but when I found this clip, TeslaTap added it to their "links" page. You will enjoy, I'm sure.

side note: It was Alan's yellow T-zero that "sold" both Elon (as an inverster) and JB to join Eberhart and Tarpenning startup Tesla Motors.
AND the yellow T-zero was used to show to all the original potential investors and early Roadster buyers. Alan encourage them to all work together.
and going back to 1980
http://evmuseum.com/ev1_images/1980_GM_Epcot_2003_01.jpg
from
EV1 Museum - General Motors EV1 picture and photo gallery and history
Thanks Brando. It was something to see the very people I just read about in the Shnayerson book. Thank you. -- Vern
 
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Brando

Active Member
Sep 27, 2016
2,862
1,988
Bainbridge Island, WA
from previous broken link:

Tesla Motors: The Evolution of Governance From Inception to IPO
By David F. Larcker and Brian Tayan

15_Tesla_0.pdf

Interesting to see how board changes over time, and who actually invests into the company.
reminder: the board had to agree on many things, not just one person.
It is interesting to hear/read many people's different perspectives. The "truth" well not easy to decide, but only you can decide for yourself, if you consider that important.

rich people, dreams, hard work, luck, timing, visions, leadership, etc...

another interesting telling of Tesla founding
(Martin also off on meeting deadlines - manufacturing, especially vehicles is very complex)
suggest 3 part YouTube series search: Tesla Origin Story
 
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Vern Padgett

Proud and Grinning Model S90D owners
Aug 17, 2006
503
410
Whittier, California
Thanks Brando. It was something to see the very people I just read about in the Shnayerson book. Thank you. -- Vern
How soon will it be when Tesla is building parts, or whole cars, in this EV-1 facility? That would be in Lansing Michigan at the Lansing Michigan Craft Center where Maureen Midgely introduced the GM Impact around 1993.
 
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neroden

Model S Owner and Frustrated Tesla Fan
Apr 25, 2011
14,676
62,627
Ithaca, NY, USA
Very interesting account. I'm wondering about this: “Michael Marks had invested about $2.5 million in Tesla in 2007 … “

What became of that investment? Elon is given as the number one stockholder, with around 20%, and J. B. Straubel is second, with 333,000 or so shares, around $100 million worth, and cousin Kimbal Musk is third.

I’m wondering what Michael Marks did with his 2.5 million $ investment in Tesla from 2007. Or Zvi?
Well, they're private citizens now. They could still have the stock, or they could have sold it in 2015. No way to know! Last I heard, Eberhard still had most of his stock.

I think there are a lot of early investors who still have their stock. It makes for a dangerous situation for short-sellers; basically, they can borrow shares from institutional investors, but long-term individual investors? Not so much. It's hard to tell how many shares are held by "long term believers", but my last guesstimate was that the "weak institutional" holdings were roughly equal to the short position. With the stock at its recent lows, I expect there's been more accumulation by long-term individual holders, so the situation gets worse for short-sellers.
 

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