Tesla tech: Recycled or original?

In this issue, Andrew plugs into Tesla, and looks at what is behind the halo brand from a technical perspective

Published:  28 March, 2022

Tesla; The very name has become a byword for the EV future. What is behind it though, and what is it made up of? The core technology, battery and power management, was developed by a collection of brilliant U.S engineers, some of whom had connections with the GM EV1 programme. Indeed, the GM EV1 programme has a huge impact on the development of EVs. Martin Eberhard, Marc Tarpenning and Ian Wright were the three original founders.

The original idea was a classic OEM model; A short run of high price models to generate enough profit to attract investment and sling-shot to a higher production volume model which requires more investment.

Lotus had the aluminium-intensive platform used in Elise, along with non-structural skin panels (low investment, easy to alter) and a steel rear subframe (relatively low investment, relatively easy to adapt). The marriage of Tesla technology to an adaption of Elise was a very wise move. The big investment, the core aluminium structure, was already paid for by Elise and the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 programme (more on which in a future article).

The arrival of Elon Musk introduced banking to the company, and an ability to swim in the right circles. So, Musk decided to delay the Roadster programme by nine months while unique headlights were tooled, and Musk decided much of the strategy after 2010. Musk also famously sued to be recognised as a Tesla founder; Such vanity.
Model S used a lot of ‘off-the-peg’ systems and pulled in automotive engineers from primarily Europe, along with those from the USA. However, the software was always Tesla’s, and the electric system was also designed by Tesla. So, the company survived on a mix of tax cash, home-spun invention and imported expertise.

The same formula was used throughout Tesla’s existence right up to the present day. The irony is Musk loves to sling mud at the ‘legacy OEMs’, yet they support Tesla by purchasing carbon credits and the many Tesla engineers were developed by those OEMs too.
Tesla has become a 0.5 million unit per year car company with electronics/electric systems that always provoke interest. They are growing, but as the tax cash runs out and they finally pitch as a car company, which they were all along, there will be a reduction in the rate of growth as the organisation consolidates towards 0.75 million units per year. Lest we forget, all other OEMs are now doing what Tesla did plus their ‘legacy’ business.

However, Tesla does stand out as a major achievement. Many have tried to do what Tesla has done; A global player in the automotive business, and apart from buying an existing business, most have failed.

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