Accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. This is the slogan Tesla lives by. Tesla, Inc., a change from its former title of Tesla Motors, Inc., is best known as an American automotive company, specializing in the production of all-electric vehicles. But the removal of “Motors” from their company title coincides with the fact that not only do they build all-electric cars, but they also are tapping into clean energy generation and storage products.
It’s true that Elon Musk is the name and face of Tesla. It’s also true that Musk is thought to be the creator of Tesla, but that is not the case. Before Tesla, Musk, the self-made billionaire, had created PayPal and was well into his SpaceX venture but Tesla was not his brainchild.
Tesla got its start under the direction of Malcom Smith and Martin Eberhard. Together, they brought in Marc Tarpenning along with a few other bright minds and Tesla Motors got its start. But to get really serious as a carmaker, an electric car at that, they needed the funding. Enter Musk. Musk became a major funder for Tesla and soon the bright idea became a reality.
ELON MUSK READY TO FIGHT COVID-19
We are all in this together. This seems to be the thought the further and further we roll into this pandemic. And the further we go, the more we start to see the efforts people are making to fight this horrific virus. Count Elon Musk and Tesla as part of those efforts. The Tesla engineering team recently released a video showing how they are working to create a ventilator out of car parts.
The prototype design is using Tesla’s Model 3 infotainment system that allows doctors to see patient information on a touch screen. This is aided by the use of the Model 3 vehicle controllers. The engineers are making progress but admit they still have a lot of work left on the new design before the ventilators are ready for production and distribution. As the engineers explain, “We’re trying to make some ventilators out of some car parts so that we can help out with the medical issue without taking away from the supply.”
Tesla Shut Down By The Coronavirus
It took some time and a little convincing, even with COVID-19 staring the United States in the eyes, but Elon Musk has finally agreed to close down his last remaining open U.S. auto factory. Musk says the production line will cease next week.
Despite the recently announced shelter-in-place, Tesla was bound and determined to keep its 10,000-worker factory open. The shelter-in-place order covered seven counties in the Bay Area which included Alameda County, where Tesla’s factory is located. Before last week, though, the term “shelter-in-place” was used in an active shooter situation. Stay right where you are until the coast is clear. This is the first time a “shelter-in-place” order was given to mean something different. California Gov. Gavin Newsome announced Thursday, March 19, 2020, a stay-at-home order that pretty much closed all businesses in California and telling people to stay indoors except for essential travel.
Tesla discussed the matter with local, state and federal officials and finally agreed to send their people home. They posted online saying that they have decided to temporarily stop production at their Fremont, CA factory beginning March 24. Tesla Head of Human Resources for North America Valerie Workman, who penned the email to employees, said in part “basic operations will continue in order to support our vehicle and energy service operations and charging infrastructure, as directed by the local, state, and federal authorities.”
Not only will Tesla suspend production in the Freemont plant, their New York Gigafactory, producers of lithium-ion battery cells, will also suspend production. For now, their Gigafactory in Nevada will remain up and running.
This is a 180 from how Musk was determined to keep his Freemont factory open, despite the county getting a shelter-in-place order telling nonessential businesses to shutter. Musk even sent his employees an email stating, “I will personally be at work, but that’s just me. Totally OK if you want to stay home for any reason.” But then he also added, “I’d like to be super clear that if you feel the slightest bit ill or even uncomfortable, please do not feel obligated to come to work … Totally OK if you want to stay home for any reason.”
As word got out that Musk planned to keep the Freemont, the Alameda County Sheriff’s office tweeted out its disapproval, stating Tesla “is not an essential business…” and should suspend their operations. Tesla countered by saying they would be taking employees temperatures, even having them wear masks, before entering the building in efforts to convince authorities they were being safe. This wasn’t enough though.
Following a tweet from the Alameda County Sheriff’s office pointing out that Tesla’s factory is not an essential business, and therefore should suspend operations, the automaker sought to convince the authorities by announcing plans to take employees’ temperatures before entering the factory, as well as issuing masks and asking workers to keep as much space as possible between one another. But it wasn’t enough. Thankfully Tesla has complied, for the most part, with the order.
Workman’s full email, as obtained by CNBC, can be seen here:
In the past few days, we have met with local, state and federal officials and are continuing to follow all health guidelines in our operations to keep you safe. While we are taking all recommended precautions and continue to operate as a national critical infrastructure as defined by the federal government, continued operations in certain locations due to shelter in place restrictions have been challenging for our employees, our families and our suppliers.
As a result, we have decided to temporarily suspend production at our Fremont factory from end of day March 23. You should continue to report to your current location through end of day Monday, as current operations will continue over the next few days. Again, if you are not feeling well or are concerned about coming into the office, please contact your manager and stay at home. We respect your decision.
Starting Tuesday, March 24 we will transition to minimum basic operations to support our vehicle and energy service operations and customers, and Supercharging infrastructure, as directed by authorities.
In addition, our factory in New York will temporarily suspend production as well, except for those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains. Production in our other facilities will continue, including operation of our service centers and Supercharging network.
Hourly employees in the Bay Area and Buffalo factories will continue to receive their normal pay through Monday, after which point we will provide paid leave during suspended operations.
Those who have been working from home should continue to do so and consider it business as usual. We understand you will have many questions and we will be providing you with additional resources in the coming hours and days. Please get in touch with your manager or HR partner for more information. Thank you all so very much for all you do.— Valerie
Tesla Under Fire
Once again, Tesla has found itself under fire from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), this time for not preventing the misuse of its Autopilot feature. The call-out from the NTSB came during a hearing concerning a March 2018 Tesla crash that took the life of the driver due to his misuse of the Autopilot feature.
The NTSB states that Tesla needs to do more safety improvement on its Autopilot feature. This is not the first time the NTSB has made safety recommendations to Tesla. In 2017, the NTSB made Autopilot safety recommendations to six automakers – including BMW, AG, Volkswagen, and Nissan – and to date, Tesla is the lone automaker yet to respond.
The NTSB determined that the driver of the 2018 crash had been distracted as he was playing a video game on his phone while the Autopilot function was on. They also noted that even though the driver was distracted and depending solely on Autopilot, Tesla’s forward-collision warning and automatic emergency brake system did not activate.
According to CNBC, during the hearing NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt said, “If you own a car with partial automation, [you do] not own a self-driving car. So don’t pretend you do.” This is just another of a handful of incidents involving Tesla and the misuse of its Autopilot function. Another famously had the California Highway Patrol chasing a car doing 70, seven miles down Highway 101, with the driver asleep at the wheel.
Tesla’s First Car
It took a little time, but in 2006 Tesla introduced its first electric car, the Roadster. This was a sports car able to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 4 seconds. On one full charge, the car could travel 245 miles. It immediately generated interest and at the same time raised eyebrows.
Many remember the attempt GM made with its electric car, the EV-1. GM pumped in over $1 billion trying to master the electric car only to see it fail miserably. In fact, the EV-1 was the main star of the 2006 documentary, “Who Killed The Electric Car”. So, forgive the pubic and critics in general for their hesitation. But where GM went wrong is what Tesla focused its sights on. The battery.
Tesla decided to not use normal lead-acid batteries but instead go with lithium-ion batteries. Tarpenning told the Business Insider, “They get better, on average, around 7% a year. It goes in fits and starts as they roll out new chemistries. They get cheaper and better.” What Tarpenning said holds true.
Taking Electric Cars Farther
One of the most critical aspects customers face when looking at the Tesla is how far they can go. So, while Tesla’s first model was able to get 245 miles per charge, new models come in at 370 miles per charge. This is a nice jump which makes customers much happier.
But Tesla doesn’t want to stop there. A normal lifespan on a battery pack sees about 300,000-500,000 miles. With Tesla having their sights set on not only their electric cars but long-haul electric trucks, Musk feels the lifespan the batteries hold now won’t be enough. He is looking for batteries that will give Tesla vehicles 1 million miles, a number Tesla believes it will see in the not to distant future.
Why Car Buyers Love Tesla
There is but one way to purchase a Tesla. Online on the Tesla website. So many buyers out there are not a fan of the normal car-buying experience. They do not care for car lots nor the salesmen who occupy said lots. They don’t appreciate the aggressive nature nor the hassle one may experience when trying to nail down the car of their dreams. Tesla has made the car buying experience stress free.
The Tesla website showcases the five models: the Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y, and the Roadster. Once you’ve chosen your model, the options feature is next. Tesla offers three different packages when it comes to range. Standard range plus, Long Range, or Performance. Naturally, with these three choices, the price of the car will vary, as will how far one can go on a single charge. You can next choose the color of your vehicle and wheel type.
The interior of the car comes next and what a different look Tesla gives. No longer do you have a set-up with all your controls crammed into a tiny display right in front of you. Tesla has done away with those and now offers a huge touchscreen that controls everything. Located where a normal car’s stereo would be, the screen size varies by model. Teslas comes with either a 15” or 17” touchscreen which allows you to control almost every aspect of the car.
A touchscreen interior isn’t the only innovative feature Tesla employs. An all-glass panoramic roof with solarized tinting is a staple Tesla has included in their designs. An amazing sound system is included as well and, in some configurations, (Model X, Model S) they can seat up to 7 passengers.
A Car That Drives Itself Into The Future
For many Teslas biggest selling point is autopilot. Autopilot is a feature that allows your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within the lane it’s driving. It also allows you to retrieve your car with a push of a button. This means with your car in the garage, you can call your car to come to you. It’s not a perfect system yet, but it’s getting better with every iteration.
Meanwhile, for those who have issues with parallel parking, Autopilot can sometimes handle this task. Autopilot will also automatically change lanes for you as you’re driving on the highway. All this is done with the assistance of eight cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors that each Tesla vehicle comes with.
All these features are great you say, but what about charging it? Charging your car at home is as simple as charging a smartphone. Meanwhile across cities, as well as workplaces, more and more charging stations are being implemented. For those who long for a road trip, Tesla has produced a map of the United States which documents their 1,636 Supercharger Stations that carry close to 14,500 Superchargers, with more stations to come. Tesla is making it as easy as possible to keep your vehicle charged and ready to hit the highway.
The Future Of Tesla
Where does the future of Tesla lie? Is the electric car here to stay? The answer may not be an easy one. The company prides itself not only on the cars they produce but their ability to look toward the future. Theirs isn’t a “now” vision but a vision that will take us years down the road. So not only does Tesla produce electric cars, they are looking at electric long-haul vehicles and robotaxis.
Their real focus focusing has always been on battery production. Elon Musk has brought in one of the world’s foremost lithium-ion researchers, physicist Jeff Dahn, to help with this task. The results so far are positive with their ultimate goal of producing a battery that will last the million miles Musk seeks.
New Tesla Features Coming Soon
On a smaller scale, Tesla is always adding new features. Recently they added the ability to things like Karaoke in the car, in addition to fun things like video games and silly tricks like the fart machine they added last year.
Now they’re apparently working on turning Teslas into talking cars. Not like Alexa, more like Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T. In the future your Tesla will not only talk to you, but also people outside the car.
Elon Musk demoed the new, yet to be released to the public, talking car feature on Twitter. Watch a Tesla engage with passersby in a British accent that sounds a lot like K.I.T.T….
The Problem With Tesla
With all the positives, there are the negatives. Elon Musk definitely has his distractors. He is hated as much as he is loved, and perhaps with good reason. Sales. Per Wired, Tesla lost $408 million in its second quarter. While that number is huge, it actually represents a gain as its first-quarter loss came in at a staggering $702 million.
Still, the actual sales figures have risen as Tesla reported a record 95,356 vehicle delivery number, up 134% from their previous set record of 90,966. Revenue-wise, Tesla saw $6.35 billion but this represented an 8% loss. To the delight of some, many analysts feel Tesla may be overvalued and have a concern about this decline.
Perhaps this negativity is turning a corner. One of Tesla’s harshest critics had predicted bankruptcy for the company but has since changed his mind. He notes the attention to detail and the characteristics of Tesla’s new vehicles are a major positive. The company’s re-focus on battery production and the creation of gigafactories to make them has also received high marks.
Elon Musk’s Vision For The Future
Elon Musk, himself, seems to differ with analysts in his view of the company’s future. He feels the future of his company will be determined by the Model 3 and Model Y. As lower cost options, he sees their numbers jumping dramatically from the Model S and Model X. As the newer models become more affordable, the numbers should only go up. Musk also feels with the recent introduction of their Cybertruck and the planned semi-truck, Tesla’s popularity and financial stability should be on solid ground.
In the end none of that may matter. Tesla’s survival could end up hinging on the recent $50 billion merger between Peugeot owner PSA Group and Fiat Chrysler. This merger has created an extremely fierce competitor, the now fourth-largest automaker worldwide by sales. Because the auto industry is becoming more and more focused on being environmentally right, this merger happened with its sights sest directly set on the electric-car market. It could be competition Tesla may find hard to deal with.
Only time is going to tell Tesla’s fate. Musk seems to be positioning Tesla for the future by developing a better battery and in the long run, that may be what keeps the company going.