The Short but Fascinating History of Tesla

Tesla set out to change the way the world views electric vehicles forever.

The Short but Fascinating History of Tesla

Tesla Motors has taken the electric vehicle (EV) market by storm since its founding in 2003. Under the leadership of Elon Musk, it has diligently followed and completed its "Secret Master Plan" to change the world of motoring forever. 

Here we explore some of the key milestones in the company's history. We also attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about them.


Why is Tesla named after Nikola Tesla?

The choice of Nikola Tesla's name is pretty obvious - - he was after all one of the major pioneers in electricity. He was also the genius behind the development of the AC electric motor that is used in, amongst many other things, Tesla cars. 

But why did the company's founders choose his name?

history of tesla model 3
Source: Tesla

According to Business Insider, the name was chosen by Tesla's co-founder Martin Eberhard. While pitching the idea of his new venture to his then-girlfriend and now wife, Carolyn, Eberhard decided that the name was simply perfect. 

But before choosing it, all Eberhard knew was that he needed a strong brand name for his new company. He knew he wanted the startup to build electric cars with a difference. They had to be game-changers and be designed so well that they would change the way everyone thought about EVs forever.

But what name could they use to convey that message? 

He'd been pitching company name ideas to his girlfriend for months prior. But nothing seemed to fit. 

Eberhard wanted to learn from prior mistakes made by EV companies at the time and not call the firm anything too "green". Those names simply didn't sound strong enough. 

While sitting down at the Blue Bayou restaurant at Disneyland the idea struck him like a bolt of lightning. Why not name it in honor of Nikola Tesla?

After all, he invented the AC induction motor and the name was easy to remember. 

His girlfriend replied: "Perfect! Now get to work making your car."

And so, on the 23rd of April 2003, Eberhard's cofounder Marc Tarpenning officially registered the domain name: Now they just needed to build some cars. 

How did Elon Musk start Tesla?

In short, he didn't. Tesla was founded by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning in 2003.

Elon Musk joined Tesla in 2004 after investing in Tesla during their Series A round of investment. 

Why was Tesla created?

Tesla started out in 2003 when a group of engineers who had a passion for electric cars wanted to show people that they didn't need to compromise when considering buying one.

They strived to develop their own range of cars that could be, in Tesla's own words, "better, quicker and more fun to drive than gasoline cars."

history of tesla roadster
Source: Elon Musk via Twitter   

One of the main motivations for starting Tesla was the recent retirement of the General Motors EV1 program.

To this end, Tesla's founder engineers, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning began the company's journey in July of 2003. They became Tesla's CEO and CFO respectively. 

The pair funded the early startup until the company opened up for Series A funding from external investors. Both Eberhard and Tarpenning played fundamental roles in the company prior to Musk joining Tesla in 2004. 

Musk was already a successful entrepreneur at the time after making his fortune with PayPal. He helped lead the Series A funding and invested $6.36 million of his own capital and became the company's chairman. 

The following year, Lotus signed a contract with Tesla to help design the chassis and bodywork for Tesla's first model, the Roadster.

By 2006, Google's founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page invested at Tesla's Series B round of funding. In July of the same year, the first prototype of the Roadster was unveiled to the world. 

Shortly after, Tesla published its "secret" plan for the company. 

"Build a sports car. Use that money to build an affordable car. Use that money to build an even more affordable car. While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options.” - Elon Musk/Tesla

The company was well on its way to disrupting the automotive industry.

When was the first Tesla car made?

In 2006, Tesla unveiled its prototype for its first venture into the EV market, the Roadster. After a few more years of development, the final production model was launched in 2008. 

This mean-looking sportscar came with cutting-edge battery technology and an all-electric powertrain. The car officially went into production in March of 2008.

At this time the original founders had left the company and Musk had stepped up as CEO. Orders were coming in, with customers forking out as much as $109,000 per Roadster. Everything seemed rosy on the surface, but the company was in financial trouble. 

With only $9 million in available funds the company was teetering on bankruptcy. They needed more cash. To this end, Tesla opened up to investors, including Mercedes, and secured $40 million more by issuing convertible debt. 

Tesla had been saved for now.

"From there, Tesla designed the world’s first-ever premium all-electric sedan from the ground up – Model S – which has become the best car in its class in every category.

Combining safety, performance, and efficiency, Model S has reset the world’s expectations for the car of the 21st century with the longest range of any electric vehicle, over-the-air software updates that make it better over time, and a record 0-60 mph acceleration time of 2.28 seconds as measured by Motor Trend." - Tesla.

history of Tesla roadster in space
Source: Space X/YouTube

After a dropped lawsuit by Former CEO Eberhard for libel, Tesla secured a massive loan from the U.S. Department of Energy and finally went public in June of 2010

By 2015 Tesla had expanded its car fleet with the Model X. This was to prove to be the "safest, quickest and most capable sport utility vehicle in history that holds 5-star safety ratings across every category from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration." - Tesla.

Model 3 was introduced in 2016 fulfilling the company's "Secret Master Plan". This low-priced, high-volume electric vehicle began production in 2017. 

Shortly after, Tesla unveiled its EV truck the Tesla Semi

Tesla has also ventured into the sustainable energy sector too. By developing the PowerwallPowerpack and Solar Roof the company hopes to enable homeowners and businesses to generate and store their own electricity

By 2014, Tesla began construction of its Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. This factory brings battery design and production in house for its range of cars and energy storage units. 

history of tesla power
Source: Tesla via YouTube

After a series of ups and downs, including a stock price crash and an SEC investigation, Tesla launched one of their Roadsters into space.

In March of this year, Tesla unveiled its Model Y SUV. This car is the final step in their "Secret Master Plan" to bring an "even-cheaper" EV to the masses.

"And this is just the beginning. With Tesla building its most affordable car yet, Tesla continues to make products accessible and affordable to more and more people, ultimately accelerating the advent of clean transport and clean energy production.

Electric cars, batteries, and renewable energy generation and storage already exist independently, but when combined, they become even more powerful – that’s the future we want." - Tesla.

With the company now in profit, will Tesla be successful in their ambitions? Only the future will tell. 


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