PHOTO CAPTION: 1916 Detroit Electric car.

Tesla Appears to be Learning for Lessons of History

Motley Fool contributor Shamus Funk considers the lessons to be learned from the rise and fall of previous electric car makers: Baker, Detroit Edison and GM's EV1.

Published: 20-Jan-2014

Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA ) has debatably been the hottest company over the past year, and with demand that is growing faster than expectations and deliveries that are exceeding estimates, the company seems primed for success. Though it is not the first high-profile electric vehicle manufacturer to see quick success, it hopes to be the first such company to survive through issues that have been the demise of the companies that have come before them.

The quick history
Those who forget history are destined to repeat it. The history of electric vehicles is riddled with successful innovations that aren't able to sustain a company, and Tesla would be wise to pay attention if it wants to change the trend.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Baker Motor Vehicle Company was the manufacturer of nickel-iron battery powered vehicles with a 100-mile range and a top speed in the low 20s. The company made a few different vehicles over the course of fifteen years until being overtaken in sales by its biggest competitor in electric vehicles, the Detroit Electric. The company merged with another automaker, and that shortly led to the end of the Baker Electric vehicle.


Tesla Model S production line in Fremont, California.

400 unit per week production is more than Mercedes-Benz or BMW sells of their flagship S Class and 7 Series cars respectively in the United States.

Tesla Model S showed rapid battery discharge rates driving along Interstate95 between Washington, D.C. and Norwich, Connecticut.

John Broder finds himself stalled short of a charging station in Connecticut in his first cross-country drive of a Tesla Model S.

Tesla Model S similar to one driven by NY Times reporter John Broder.

Grist's David Roberts argues that instead of obsessing over 'widget' solutions to our energy and transportation problems, we need to rethink the entire system.


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