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Electric Car Maker Aims For the Top With Sports Car

Wall Street Journal – October 15, 2007

I think that electric cars make an immense amount of sense for the majority of Americans. Most of us do not travel more than 200 miles per day on a regular basis and most of our travel is done with one or maybe 2 people in the car. The problem is that the automotive companies have done a really bad job of selling electric cars.  They sell these vehicles like they are selling to hippies and professors so they are small, compact, and (frankly) ugly!

The way to sell any new technology is to sell it as cool.  Cool sells. When CDs, plasma TVs, and iPods came out on the market, they emphasized the "coolness" aspect of the device. They pitched it to the consumer at a high price and said if you want to be part of the "in" crowd, you need to buy this product. Why can’t automotive companies figure out that they are really consumer products companies?

This report on Tesla Motors answers this call. They are trying to bring out a car that is cool. This car is one that few of us can afford and most of us want. THAT drives demand and that drives lower priced replicas that can take advantage of the larger market and reduce costs with economies of scale.

Tesla Motors is a car company that’s both decades ahead of its time, and a year behind schedule. Soon, it will become clear which is more important to Tesla’s long-term future, and the future of the disruptive ideas the company represents.


Tesla’s first model will be a $98,000 electric roadster, developed around the architecture of a Lotus Elise, that uses 6,831 lithium-ion batteries similar to those used in laptop computers, a patented electric-motor system, and a highly sophisticated package of controllers and software to deliver an exotically attractive car that zaps from standstill to 60 miles per hour in under four seconds and can travel up to 245 miles on a single charge.


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Big car makers, led by General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., responded to a California mandate in the late ’90s by producing vehicles that were supposed to prove that electric vehicles could be affordable and oh-so-politically correct. Unfortunately, the GM EV1 and the electric Toyota RAV4 struck mainstream customers as geeky, slow and impractical.


Tesla’s Big Idea was to start with an electric car that appeals to the id, not the superego. From the start, Mr. Eberhard says he wanted a car that could outrun a Porsche in a 0-60 trial, and would go 250 miles on a charge.

Read the rest of this article here.

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5 Responses to “Electric Car Maker Aims For the Top With Sports Car”

  1. I know electric car drivers want to be cool, but how many can afford a $100,000 makeover. Actually, there have been a couple of companies that have made exotic electric sports cars and were not able to succussfully commercialize them. Getting the cost down will be crucial or the Tesla will just sit in a few rich people’s garages and never make a true impact.

  2. Calling the impractical, exorbitantly expensive Tesla
    as “ahead of its time” is totally absurd. All-electric cars currently make no sense – the batteries packs cost a small fortune, and, in the case of Tesla, are obsolete 1st generation li ion batteries. Plug-in hybrids ala the Chevy VOLT, immenent Chinese BYD represent the only opportunity at this time for electric transportation. As GM found out with its crappy EV-1, a car that can only go 250 miles (at most, usually a lot less) is
    of no value as a main car. Now who wants to spend $100,000 for a car that can’t even get you out of the state and takes 4 hours to recharge? Anser : very, very few, mostly Hollywood actor millianaires looking to impress others with their “conscientious” behavior.
    What they do wil have zero effect on the environment.

  3. JB and Kent – I agree with both of you that the environmental impact of the Tesla is minimal BUT history shows that the way to introduce new technologies is to sell the sizzle not the steak. You need the cool factor to overcome the problems that are associated with an immature technology. Introducing a new technology as main stream is almost always disappointing.

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  5. $98,000 now but I’ll bet that the prices come down as the product continues to undergo development. Go Tesla!