Accelerating and Disrupting Innovation: The Tesla Story


Reading time ( words)

Introduced by IPC President and CEO Dr. John Mitchell, JB Straubel, CTO and co-founder of Tesla Inc., discussed the company’s history in a keynote presentation entitled “Accelerating and Disrupting Innovation: The Tesla Story” at the IPC APEX EXPO 2019.

"What problems are you solving, and what are you passionate about?" were his opening words as he described how Tesla had been inspired to tackle the issue of the exponential growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels in transportation. "It will force us to reinvent a lot of the technology around us; it's up to engineers to fix the problems!" And he reminded the audience how incredibly thin the atmosphere actually is—the majority of it lying within 10 miles of the Earth’s surface.

Tesla-2-S&T2019.jpg

The time was right for Tesla to bring new thinking into the concept of electric transportation when the company observed the quantum shift in battery technology from lead-acid to lithium-ion that had been driven by developments in portable consumer electronics. Until that time, electric vehicles had been slow, heavy, and short-range, and fell into the golfcart category. Anything beyond that had been the territory of hobbyists, and the mainstream automotive industry had dismissed the opportunity to move away from the internal combustion engine.

But in 2002, having recognised the potential of lithium-ion power storage to enable electric cars to become accepted as premium vehicles, the Tesla team committed to realise that potential. When they announced their first Roadster prototype in 2005, they were dismissed as a crazy startup company. Their reluctance to follow the rules led them to be labelled as disruptive by those whose attitude would stifle innovation.

But there was no rule book! Their Model S was designed from scratch and built around a battery pack that formed the floor of the vehicle with its centre of gravity below wheel-spindle height, which resulted in consequent benefits in road-holding stability and safety. New electronics were developed to control the electromechanical functions, and a decision was made to eliminate buttons, knobs, and switches—to make everything software-controlled.

Further, Tesla built their own version of a gigantic iPad right in the middle of the car. Additionally, they made the whole car connected via a built-in 3G modem so that they could integrate the whole user experience as well as update firmware and software and perform maintenance functions by two-way data transfer. This gave them a flying start into the technology of intelligent vehicles and autonomous driving.Tesla-1-S&T2019.jpg

Tesla quickly gained credibility as a serious manufacturer of automobiles, and the precedent that they had set resulted in the automotive industry moving quickly to jump on the electric vehicle bandwagon. But what about the supporting infrastructure? Straubel drew an analogy with the cellphone network. Electric cars needed a network of charging stations strategically placed to optimize their range and provide a fast-charge facility. None existed, so Tesla decided to do it for themselves, beginning in California in 2012, and expanding rapidly in the U.S. and subsequently in Europe and Asia.

Tesla-3-S&T2019.jpgAnd how do they support the demand for batteries as the production of electric vehicles grew? Straubel made it clear that they so far represented less than 0.4% of the global motor industry. But Tesla predicted that even by 2020, there would be a requirement for 50 GW hours-worth of battery capacity. Once more, they took the initiative to build their own battery factory called the Tesla Gigafactory with a high level of being environmentally conscious, knowing that certain essential materials might be difficult to source. To partially mitigate this, Tesla founded a new company named Redwood Materials for the recycling of post-consumer electronics waste and the recovery of usable materials.

Straubel closed with a quote attributed to Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani: "The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil!"

This article was initially published in the in the Real Time with... IPC APEX EXPO 2019 Show & Tell magazine

Share




Suggested Items

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

09/30/2022 | Nolan Johnson, I-Connect007
This week, our five must-reads include the IPC report on the EMS industry and a report on ICs for the automotive market. Add to that Lockheed’s highest powered DoD laser yet, IPC’s APEX keynote announcement, and—for you conference and expo junkies—a calendar of upcoming industry events. I can’t help but notice that much of our news is about, well, something new. In this case, my editor’s picks for the week capture new technology, new perspectives, new ways to communicate content, and new developments that we can expect to see in our future daily life. To borrow a phrase from the TV show “Firefly,” everything is “shiny” this week. I will be at PCB West, the IPC Advanced Packaging symposium, SMTA International, and electronica. If you see me, say hello, and share something cool about the part of the industry you’re in.

Catching Up With John Johnson, New Director of Business Development at ASC

09/28/2022 | Dan Beaulieu, D.B. Management Group
It’s always good to catch up with old friends, especially when you can start working together. I recently spoke with my friend John Johnson, who has joined American Standard Circuits as the director of business development. At ASC, John will be using the Averatek A-SAP process that he was previously involved with. He shares some of his background and provides insight on the best ways to use this semi-additive PCB fabrication process that opens the capability window for forming trace and space.

I-Connect007 Editor’s Choice: Five Must-Reads for the Week

09/23/2022 | Andy Shaughnessy, Design007 Magazine
It’s officially fall now, and in Atlanta the temperature has plummeted to the mid-80s. We’ve all bumped our air conditioners up to 74 degrees. That means it’s trade show season, and I’ve been busy looking for my suitcase. This week, we have an assortment of news about associations, education, and advocacy, as well as another installment of our Printed Electronics Roundtable. And if you’re looking for a job, you are in luck; our jobConnect007 section is chock-full of open positions at all levels in this industry.



Copyright © 2022 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.