Tesla's Origin Story in One Giant Infographic
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Tesla’s Origin Story in One Giant Infographic

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Priced at $17 per share just seven years ago, the Tesla IPO ended up being a total bargain for anyone lucky enough to get in.

However, this view comes with the benefit of plenty of hindsight – and even Elon Musk would tell you that it wasn’t always obvious that the company would be around in 2017. There were periods of time when layoffs were rampant, the company’s payroll was covered by credit cards, and Tesla was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Rise of Tesla: The History (Part 1 of 3)

Today’s massive infographic comes to us from Global Energy Metals, and it is the first part of our three-part Rise of Tesla Series, which will soon be a definitive source for everything you ever wanted to know about the company.

Part 1 deals with the origin story of the company, challenges faced by the first EVs, the company’s strategy and initial execution, and the Tesla Roadster’s development.

Part 1: Tesla's Origin StoryPart 2: From IPO and OnwardsVisualizing Elon Musk's Vision for the Future of Tesla

Tesla's Origin Story in a Giant Infographic
Part 1: Tesla's Origin StoryPart 2: From IPO and OnwardsVisualizing Elon Musk's Vision for the Future of Tesla

Tesla was initially conceived in 2003 out of the vision of two Silicon Valley engineers, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. The partners had just sold their eReader company for $187 million, and were looking for their next big idea.

The infamous “death” of GM’s EV1 electric car that year ended up being a source of inspiration, and the two engineers started looking into ways to reduce the world’s reliance on Middle Eastern oil and to combat climate change.

The electric car pathway was not just better than the other choices that were out there – it was dramatically better.

– Martin Eberhard, Tesla co-founder

The company was bootstrapped until Elon Musk led the $7.5 million Series A round in February 2004 and became the controlling investor. He joined the board of directors as its chairman, and took on operational roles as well.

At this time, JB Straubel – who famously rebuilt an electric golf cart when he was only 14 years old – also joined the company as CTO.

Initial Strategy

Tesla’s initial strategy was to build a high performance sports car first, for a few reasons:

  • It would shed the existing stigma around EVs
  • Sports cars have higher margins
  • Fewer cars would need to be produced
  • High-end buyers are less price-sensitive

Instead of building the Tesla Roadster from scratch, the company aimed to combine an existing chassis with an AC induction motor and battery. And so, the company signed a contract with British sports car maker Lotus to use its Elise chassis as a base.

Roadster Debut

The Roadster made its debut at a star-studded launch party in Santa Monica. The 350-strong guestlist of Hollywood celebrities and the press were wowed by the 2-seater sports car with a $100,000 price tag.

This is not your father’s electric car.

– The Washington Post

What the audience didn’t notice?

The Roadsters had many issues that needed to be fixed – these and others would delay Tesla well beyond the planned Summer 2007 delivery date.

The Dark Years

Tesla’s original business plan was built on the idea that the auto industry had changed drastically.

Automakers now focused on core competencies like financing, engine design, sales and marketing, and final assembly – getting the hundreds of individual car parts, like windshield wiper blades or door handles, was actually outsourced.

This was supposed to make it easy for Tesla to get its foot in the door – to focus on the EV aspect and let Lotus do the rest. Instead, the company experienced an “elegance creep” phenomenon. They were able to keep making the car nicer, but it meant customizing individual parts.

Costs spiraled out of control, things got delayed, and the car began to take a very different shape than the Elise. By the time it was said and done, the Tesla Roadster was nothing like its Lotus cousin, sharing only 7% parts by count.

The Revolving Door

During this process, there was a revolving door of CEOs.

2007: Eberhart was forced to resign as CEO in August
2007: Early Tesla investor Michael Marks took the reins temporarily
2007: In November, Ze’ev Drori took over as CEO and President
2008: After less than a year of Drori’s run, Musk stepped in to take over the role in October

At this point, Musk had already invested $55 million in the company, and it was teetering towards bankruptcy.

I’ve got so many chips on the table with Tesla. It just made sense for me to have both hands on the wheel.

– Elon Musk

Some of Musk’s first moves:

  • He ended up cutting 25% of the workforce
  • He leaned on friends to help cover payroll, week-to-week
  • He raised a $40 debt financing round to escape bankruptcy
  • He formed a strategic partnership with Daimler AG, which acquired a 10% stake of Tesla for $50 million
  • He took a $465 million loan from the U.S. Dept. of Energy (He repaid it back ahead of the deadline)
  • He recalled 75% of the Roadsters produced between March 2008 and April 2009

Despite revamping the entire production process – and the company itself – Tesla made it through its most trying time.

The Roadster’s Run

The Roadster wasn’t perfect, but it helped Tesla learn what it meant to be a car company.

It is not just a car, but one of the strongest automotive statements on the road.

– Car and Driver

A total of 2,450 units were produced, and the specs were impressive for an EV. With a top speed of 125 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds, the Roadster helped dispel many of the myths surrounding electric cars.

Meanwhile, the Roadster’s lithium-ion battery also was the first step forward in an entire battery revolution. The 992 lb (450 kg) battery for the Roadster contained 6,831 lithium ion cells arranged into 11 “sheets” connected in series, and gave the car a range of 244 miles.

With the Roadster, Tesla would not only set itself up for future success, but also the transformation of an entire industry.

This was Part 1 of the Tesla Series. Parts 2 and 3, on Tesla as well as the future vision, will be released in the near future!

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Energy

Green Steel: Decarbonising with Hydrogen-Fueled Production

How will high emission industries respond to climate change? We highlight industrial emissions and hydrogen’s role in green steel production.

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This infographic highlights industrial emissions and hydrogen's role in green steel production.
The following content is sponsored by AFRY
This infographic highlights industrial emissions and hydrogen's role in green steel production.

Green Steel: Decarbonising with Hydrogen-Fueled Production

As the fight against climate change ramps up worldwide, the need for industries and economies to respond is immediate.

Of course, different sectors contribute different amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and face different paths to decarbonisation as a result. One massive player? Steel and iron manufacturing, where energy-related emissions account for roughly 6.1% of global emissions.

The following infographic by AFRY highlights the need for steel manufacturing to evolve and decarbonise, and how hydrogen can play a vital role in the “green” steel revolution.

The Modern Steel Production Landscape

Globally, crude steel production totalled 1,951 million tonnes (Mt) in 2021.

This production is spread all over the world, including India, Japan, and the U.S., with the vast majority (1,033 million tonnes) concentrated in China.

But despite being produced in many different places globally, only two main methods of steel production have been honed and utilised over time—electric arc furnace (EAF) and blast furnace basic oxygen furnace (BF-BOF) production.

Both methods traditionally use fossil fuels, and in 2019 contributed 3.6 Gt of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions:

Steel Production MethodMaterials UtilisedCO2 Emissions (2019)
EAFScrap0.5 Gt
BF-BOFScrap, iron ore, coke3.1 Gt

That’s why one of the main ways the steel industry can decarbonise is through the replacement of fossil fuels.

Hydrogen’s Role in Green Steel Production

Of course, one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is how to decarbonise and produce “green” steel in an extremely competitive market.

As a globally-traded good with fine cost margins, steel production has been associated with major geopolitical issues, including trade disputes and tariffs. But because of climate change, there is also a sudden and massive demand for carbon-friendly production.

And that’s where hydrogen plays a key role. Steel traditionally made in a blast furnace uses coke—a high-carbon fuel made by heating coal without air—as a fuel source to heat iron ore pellets and liquify the pure iron component. This expels a lot of emissions in order to get the iron hot enough to melt (1,200 °C) and be mixed with scrap and made into steel.

The green steel method instead uses hydrogen to reduce the iron pellets into sponge iron, metallic iron that can then be processed to form steel. This process is also done at high temperature but below the melting point of iron (800 – 1,200 °C), saving energy costs.

And by introducing non-fossil fuels to create iron pellets and renewable electricity to turn the sponge iron and scrap into steel, fossil fuels can be removed from the process, significantly reducing emissions as a result.

The Future of Green Steel Production

Given the massive global demand for steel, the need for hydrogen and renewable energy required for green steel production is just as significant.

According to AFRY and the International Renewable Energy Agency, meeting global steel production in 2021 using the green steel method would require 97.6 million tonnes of hydrogen.

And for a truly carbon-free transition to green steel, the energy industry will also need to focus on green hydrogen production using electrolysis. Unlike methods which burn natural gas to release hydrogen, electrolysis entails the splitting of water (H2O) into oxygen and hydrogen using renewable energy sources.

Full green steel production would therefore use green hydrogen, electrolysers running on renewables, and additional renewables for all parts of the supply chain:

Steel Production SourceAnnual Steel ProductionGreen Hydrogen RequiredElectrolyser Capacity RequiredTotal Renewables Capacity Required
Base Reference1 Mt50 kT0.56 GW0.7 GW
U.S.85.8 Mt4.3 Mt48 GW60 GW
Europe103 Mt5.2 Mt58 GW72 GW
China1032.8 Mt51.6 Mt581 GW726 GW
Global1951 Mt97.6 Mt1,097 GW1,371 GW

Currently, green hydrogen production costs are higher than traditional fossil fuel methods, and are dependent on the levelised costs of renewable energy sources. This means they vary by region, but also that they will reduce as production capacity and subsidies for renewables and green hydrogen increase.

And many major European steel manufacturers are already leading the way with pilot and large scale facilities for green steel production. Germany alone has at least seven projects in the works, including by ArcelorMittal and ThyssenKrupp, two of the world’s 10 largest steelmakers by revenue.

AFRY is a thought leadership firm that provides companies with advisory services and sustainable solutions, in their efforts to fight climate change and lead them towards a greater future.

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Charted: 40 Years of Global Energy Production, by Country

Here’s a snapshot of global energy production, and which countries have produced the most fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy since 1980.

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The Biggest Energy Producers since 1980

Energy was already a hot topic before 2022, but soaring household energy bills and a cost of living crisis has brought it even more to the forefront.

Which countries are the biggest energy producers, and what types of energy are they churning out? This graphic by 911 Metallurgist gives a breakdown of global energy production, showing which countries have used the most fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy since 1980.

All figures refer to the British thermal unit (BTU), equivalent to the heat required to heat one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

Editor’s note: Click on any graphic to see a full-width version that is higher resolution

1. Fossil Fuels

Biggest Producers of Fossil Fuel since 1980

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While the U.S. is a dominant player in both oil and natural gas production, China holds the top spot as the world’s largest fossil fuel producer, largely because of its significant production and consumption of coal.

Over the last decade, China has used more coal than the rest of the world, combined.

However, it’s worth noting that the country’s fossil fuel consumption and production have dipped in recent years, ever since the government launched a five-year plan back in 2014 to help reduce carbon emissions.

2. Nuclear Power

Biggest Producers of Nuclear Energy since 1980

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The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power by far, generating about double the amount of nuclear energy as France, the second-largest producer.

While nuclear power provides a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels, the nuclear disaster in Fukushima caused many countries to move away from the energy source, which is why global use has dipped in recent years.

Despite the fact that many countries have recently pivoted away from nuclear energy, it still powers about 10% of the world’s electricity. It’s also possible that nuclear energy will play an expanded role in the energy mix going forward, since decarbonization has emerged as a top priority for nations around the world.

3. Renewable Energy

Biggest Producers of Renewable Energy

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Renewable energy sources (including wind, hydro, and solar) account for about 23% of electricity production worldwide. China leads the front on renewable production, while the U.S. comes in second place.

While renewable energy production has ramped up in recent years, more countries will need to ramp up their renewable energy production in order to reach net-zero targets by 2050.

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