Tesla Is Carmaker with Silicon Valley Spark

The tech veterans behind Tesla think they know a better way to build an electric car

Published: 29-Jul-2007

It takes big car manufacturers four years to develop a new model. In that period of time, Tesla Motors Inc. has created a brand-new kind of car company--not to mention plenty of buzz.

Filling the niche for a green vehicle that isn't virtuously homely, Tesla has buyers standing in line to buy its sleek $98,000 electric sports car, which starts coming off the assembly line in October. The wait list now includes George Clooney, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Google Inc. (GOOG ) founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They want to be the first in their neighborhoods to own the eerily quiet machine that can rocket from 0 to 60 in four seconds.

But once the short list of environmentally conscious tycoons trades in their Toyota (TM ) Priuses for Tesla Roadsters, will there be enough business for the company to survive? Boutique automakers have a grim history. The last car startup to make it was Walter Chrysler's namesake company in 1925. Many auto industry insiders are impressed with Tesla's technology, but question whether the 250-employee San Carlos (Calif.) company will be able to sell enough cars to thrive in the ultracompetitive global car industry. "These guys look undercapitalized to build cars in real numbers," says James N. Hall, vice-president of AutoPacific Inc., an auto industry consulting firm. "They can sell cars until other, bigger manufacturers start selling vehicles that aren't pure electrics but are green enough."


Pasadena ordered to return its 11 Nissan Hypermini battery electric cars after carmaker refuses to renew leases.

Siemens VDO engineers are working on plans to integrate the drivetrain, steering, shock absorbers and brakes directly into the wheels of future cars.

Called the Xebra, the new vehicle has three wheels instead of four, weighs under 1,000 pounds and can seat four. It travels up to 40 miles on one charge, and whirs along at up to 40 mph.


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