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.
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.
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.
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!
Tesla is Now the World’s Most Valuable Automaker
Thanks to a surging stock price, Tesla is now the world’s most valuable automaker – surpassing industry giants Toyota and Volkswagen.
Tesla is Now the World’s Most Valuable Automaker
Even in the midst of a pandemic, Tesla continues to reach new heights.
The company, which began as a problem-plagued upstart a little over 15 years ago, has now become the world’s most valuable automaker – surpassing industry giants such as Toyota and Volkswagen.
This milestone comes after a year of steady growth, which only hit a speed bump earlier this year due to COVID-19’s negative impact on new car sales. Despite these headwinds, Tesla’s valuation has jumped by an impressive 375% since this time last year.
How does Tesla’s value continue to balloon, despite repeated cries that the company is overvalued? Will shortsellers declare a long-awaited victory, or is there still open road ahead?
Tesla’s Race to the Top
Earlier this year, Tesla hit an impressive milestone, surpassing the value of GM and Ford combined. Since then, the automaker’s stock has continued it’s upward trajectory.
Thanks to the popularity of the Model 3, Tesla sold more cars in 2019 than it did in the previous two years combined:
As well, the company is taking big steps to up its production capacity.
Austin, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma are currently rolling out the incentives to attract Tesla’s new U.S.-based factory. The company is also increasing its global presence with the construction of Giga Berlin, it’s first European production facility, as well as completing the ongoing expansion of its Giga Shanghai facility in China.
Battle of the Namesakes
Tesla’s most recent price bump was fueled in part by a leaked internal memo from Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, urging the company’s staff to go “all out” on bringing electric semi trucks to the global market at scale.
It’s time to go all out and bring the Tesla Semi to volume production.
– Elon Musk
Of course, Musk’s enthusiasm for semi trucks isn’t coming from nowhere. Another company, Nikola (also named after famed inventor Nikola Tesla), is focused on electrifying the two million or so semi trucks in operation in the U.S. market.
Although Nikola has yet to produce a vehicle, its market cap has surged to $24 billion – which puts its valuation nearly on par with Ford. Much like Tesla, the company already has preorders from major companies looking to add electric-powered trucks to their delivery fleets.
For major brands looking to hit ESG targets, zero-emission heavy-duty trucks is an easy solution, particularly if the vehicles also live up to claims of being cheaper over the vehicle’s lifecycle. The big question is which automaker will capitalize on this mega market first?
6 Ways Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Can Help Transition to Clean Energy
Here are six reasons why hydrogen and fuel cells can be a fit for helping with the transition to a lower-emission energy mix.
While fossil fuels offer an easily transportable, affordable, and energy-dense fuel for everyday use, the burning of this fuel creates pollutants, which can concentrate in city centers degrading the quality of air and life for residents.
The world is looking for alternative ways to ensure the mobility of people and goods with different power sources, and electric vehicles have high potential to fill this need.
But did you know that not all electric vehicles produce their electricity in the same way?
Hydrogen: An Alternative Vision for the EV
The world obsesses over battery technology and manufacturers such as Tesla, but there is an alternative fuel that powers rocket ships and is road-ready. Hydrogen is set to become an important fuel in the clean energy mix of the future.
Today’s infographic comes from the Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (CHFCA) and it outlines the case for hydrogen.
Hydrogen Supply and Demand
Some scientists have made the argument that it was not hydrogen that caused the infamous Hindenburg to burst into flames. Instead, the powdered aluminum coating of the zeppelin, which provided its silver look, was the culprit. Essentially, the chemical compound coating the dirigibles was a crude form of rocket fuel.
Industry and business have safely used, stored, and transported hydrogen for 50 years, while hydrogen-powered electric vehicles have a proven safety record with over 10 million miles of operation. In fact, hydrogen has several properties that make it safer than fossil fuels:
- 14 times lighter than air and disperses quickly
- Flames have low radiant heat
- Less combustible
Since hydrogen is the most abundant chemical element in the universe, it can be produced almost anywhere with a variety of methods, including from fuels such as natural gas, oil, or coal, and through electrolysis. Fossil fuels can be treated with extreme temperatures to break their hydrocarbon bonds, releasing hydrogen as a byproduct. The latter method uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Both methods produce hydrogen for storage, and later consumption in an electric fuel cell.
Fuel Cell or Battery?
Battery and hydrogen-powered vehicles have the same goal: to reduce the environmental impact from oil consumption. There are two ways to measure the environmental impact of vehicles, from “Well to Wheels” and from “Cradle to Grave”.
Well to wheels refers to the total emissions from the production of fuel to its use in everyday life. Meanwhile, cradle to grave includes the vehicle’s production, operation, and eventual destruction.
According to one study, both of these measurements show that hydrogen-powered fuel cells significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants. For every kilometer a hydrogen-powered vehicle drives it produces only 2.7 grams per kilometer (g/km) of carbon dioxide while a battery electric vehicle produces 20 g/km.
During everyday use, both options offer zero emissions, high efficiency, an electric drive, and low noise, but hydrogen offers weight-saving advantages that battery-powered vehicles do not.
In one comparison, Toyota’s Mirai had a maximum driving range of 312 miles, 41% further than Tesla’s Model 3 220-mile range. The Mirai can refuel in minutes, while the Model 3 has to recharge in 8.5 hours for only a 45% charge at a specially configured quick charge station not widely available.
However, the world still lacks the significant infrastructure to make this hydrogen-fueled future possible.
Large scale production delivers economic amounts of hydrogen. In order to achieve this scale, an extensive infrastructure of pipelines and fueling stations are required. However to build this, the world needs global coordination and action.
Countries around the world are laying the foundations for a hydrogen future. In 2017, CEOs from around the word formed the Hydrogen Council with the mission to accelerate the investment in hydrogen.
Globally, countries have announced plans to build 2,800 hydrogen refueling stations by 2025. German pipeline operators presented a plan to create a 1,200-kilometer grid by 2030 to transport hydrogen across the country, which would be the world’s largest in planning.
Fuel cell technology is road-ready with hydrogen infrastructure rapidly catching up. Hydrogen can deliver the power for a new clear energy era.
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