The Tesla Story and Me (Part 1)

27 January 2017

I began my journey in the automotive industry in 2006, and since them I was lucky enough to be part of the big four technology trends that happened in this industry since the last century.

  • Electrification
  • Mobility
  • Connectivity
  • Autonomous Driving

It has been and it is a really interesting journey since I “arriving” here and fascinating to see the growth of some of these companies to enormous conglomerates, some fail and others still trying.

In 2008 I was in the EV24, an event that back in the day was one of the biggest events for Electric and Hybrid vehicles. In that event one of the biggest surprises we all had was a newly formed company called Tesla that had already managed to forge a partnership with Lotus mainly because of their clever PR stunt to drive their electrical car from Oslo to Stavanger, where the event was taking place.

At the time I was working in the development of electric and hybrid vehicles for an OEM and when I tried their vehicle I was impressed by its features and future plans for adaptations. I remember being there with Simon Sheldon, Roger Atkins, Andrew Everett and Francisco Carranza and we all in awe of the Handling and Power of its engine and design. The next day, they were presenting their strategy for the next 10 years and it was evident they had clear, set goals which were achievable with the investment they had already sourced.

Back then, Tesla like most of the people who were working in the field, realised that the imminent changes from fossil fuel to electric would be one of the biggest paradigms shifts in the industry in years and in order to be the first penetrating the market they need to develop an ecosystem that allowed them to enter dynamically against all the stereotypes and business models that the industry had.  Hence, in 2008 Tesla recognised four (4) key technology areas they would focus on:

  • Connectivity: Having one electric vehicle in an urban area connected it’s fairly straightforward. Having a fleet of 23000 electric vehicles in difference places connected is a somewhat other discussion. For them the key was to enable this by creating ecosystems where connectivity was high. They then planned to create their own networks that control the connectivity of their vehicles and also their customers (which they also see as part of the service of buying a car and they want to control the data and the vehicle behaviours so they can learn and implement changes to their products).
  • Re-Usability: Tesla back then had already “dropped” the first hint of the shared-economy movement we are now living in. They believed that components as vehicles should be able to be reused, so their main vision for all their products was to make sure that the component or functionality can be recycled or updated easily. They recognised that was a difficult challenge and in order to do this they would need to re-think how to design the actual components they use. Effectively thinking out of the box without re-inventing the wheel.
  • Electric Infrastructure: In 2008 there was an enormous debate active on the Slow charger, fast charger, acceptance of consumer of the fast charging, what we are going to do with the petrol stations and many more similar questions. Teslatook a risky approach back thenwhich in hindsight makes a lot of sense. They wanted to empower the customer to make him the owner of the energy and be able to share it or sell it. They hence drove to create e a product philosophy for a target segment of the future they believed would be created (in their mind the customer that produce the energy can share it with his other fellow friends that have the same product or sell it back to the grid). Furtnermore, they also believed that if they create ecosystems of people with their product they would be able to share it and have it recommended between users and potential customers.
  • Energy Storage and Distribution: The event above also evidently demonstrated that electrifications would not work with changes in the battery developments for energy storage and renewable energy. They consequently were of the firm belief that they also needed to become producers of batteries allowing them to also penetrate another market.

They offered a detailed analysis of all the potential issues they were expecting to face on a number of socioeconomic and political levels and then went on to explain how all the above problems could we solved with a detailed plan and strategy.

(See part 2 for more details)

Article by David Fidalgo

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