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As the legal battle between Elon Musk and Martin Eberhard continues to percolate, a new/old voice has chimed in publicly on the controversy for the first time. Current Peppercom clean-tech analyst and ex-Tesla SVP of Marketing Darryl Siry has penned a piece for Wired that gives a different spin on the story. Rather than come down on the side either of the adversaries in this mess, he calls out both for the mistakes made along the way, and looks elsewhere for the real inspiration for the creation of Tesla.

Along the way over the last several years, both men have highlighted AC Propulsion and its tZero (above) as the inspiration for the creation of the Tesla Roadster. Here at ABG, we've written about the company and its projects including the eBox and its involvement in BMW's MINI E program. Siry also points to Tom Gage and Alan Cocconi of AC Propulsion as the ones who really gave birth to the idea. Unfortunately, (or not) Gage and Cocconi had other plans beyond building a production tZero and as a result we now have this battle of egos. In some respects Gage and Cocconi may end up being the EV equivalent of Gary Kildall, brilliant innovators, largely forgotten by those with a more business-oriented agenda.

Of course, being business-oriented doesn't necessarily mean that Musk will be as successful as Bill Gates. As Siry points out, winning this battle is unlikely to have any beneficial impact for Tesla, regardless of who triumphs.


[Source: Wired]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 11 Comments
      • 6 Months Ago
      I never saw the T-Zero with its top off before.
      • 6 Months Ago
      Siry is partly right, and makes some good points, but even he has it wrong.

      Yes, the guys who made the original TZero were visionaries. But, the original version used very ordinary lead-acid batteries. The car performed pretty darn well with those low-tech batteries, and AC Propulsion was content to leave it at that. Then somebody came along and and tried to talk them into switching it over to commodity lithium ion batteries just like the ones used in laptops. They still balked, so he gave them over $100,000 to convince them to give it a try, and helped design the battery array. He came up with an array of 6,831 individual18650 cells in a combination series/parallel arrangement. With the new batteries the TZero performance took a quantum leap, to true supercar territory. It was beating Ferraris, Convettes, all sorts of very high end autos.

      That person, who pushed this groundbreaking upgrade to the TZero was Martin Eberhard. If AC Propulsion was willing to commercialize the TZero, Tesla would not exist and we would now have a different electric sports car changing the world, bu the battery idea still would have come from Mr. Eberhard.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Visionary?

        It was a cage with a motor strapped in it and a fiberglass shell on top. It was basically a motorcycle. It had zero safety features. It was visionary only if you think putting forth the proposition that people will be willing to give up every feature in a car in order to make an electric motor closer to viable is visionary. But the problem is...most won't.
        • 6 Months Ago
        Unfortunately, the TZero really wasn't ready for production, it lacked air bags and a lot of other safety features, and has never been crash tested. Worse, the battery packs run down both sides of the vehicle, making for very high sills that make entry and exit difficult, and any side collision would have been disastrous.
      • 6 Months Ago
      ...whcih is why more and more we're coming to the conclusion that eye witnesses are useless, since they each have their own stories to tell, and are utterly incapable of telling what really happened.
      • 6 Months Ago
      I think it comes down more on the side of Elons story. In that he trusted Ebehard until it was clear his that he was in over his head.
      • 6 Months Ago
      You forgot the link. It's here:

      http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/06/tesla-founder/

      Here's today's double-take moment:

      "Perhaps neither Eberhard or Musk realized just how right they were about how big the idea would become. If they had, they would have been more protective in the early days of Tesla Motors. Eberhard did not take the necessary precautions in giving away so much control of the company early on. And Musk didn’t act sooner to replace Eberhard, either in the early days when one member of the management team sought his ouster or at the series C round of funding when a top-tier venture capitalist conditioned an investment offer on Eberhard’s departure (In both cases, Musk backed Eberhard)."

      Whoa.
      • 6 Months Ago
      Sorry, but I don't see anything "new" in Siry's article.

      The tale he tells pretty much echoes the one I have always heard from Martin Eberhard. He has repeatedly given AC Propulsion credit for the tZero, and I am willing to wager that Tom Gage will confirm that Martin is the one who suggested (and financed) powering that original "concept" vehicle with li-ion commodity cells instead of lead-acid.

      Since Tom wasn't interested in commercializing the tZero, he agreed to let Martin and Marc license its technology to build an even better two-seater themselves with the help of an OEM --and thus Tesla Motors was born. They managed to sell Lotus on the idea several months before even meeting Musk for the first time.
      • 6 Months Ago
      If I were Elon Musk, I would simply eat some humble pie and give Martin the credit he want. If all he wants are a few words and a new car, why not give him? A great leader will always choose his battles and make sure to eliminate side distractions.

      Lawsuits are not worth it, specially about simple things like that.

      Sigh...

      • 6 Months Ago
      Egos, Egos, Egos...
      It really doesn't matter. Lotus is a car company...even Chrysler is a car company. Tesla is not. Tesla is the current Apple of the electric car botique companies, but it has no staying power. it is a producer of novelty products for the wealthy few. Many companies can make prototypes, but it is completely different to become a car company and mass produce vehicles. Vector made cars, Saleen made cars, Tucker made cars, but where are they now? Unless they are bought up my one of the Major players they will die out.

      Maybe this is why Mercedes has invested in Tesla, for future marketing advantage. (The Bugatti or maybe the Maybach of electric cars?) Tesla is just an image, not a car company. The electric car industry reminds me of the Dot Com boom of the '80's, all flash and no substance.
        • 6 Months Ago
        You could say the same thing about GM & Chrysler. If it weren't for massive gov't subsidies and bailouts none of our traditional car companies would have survived the last 50 years(this latest bailout was not the first, nor will it be the last).

        Tesla has done incredible things with nothing more than venture capital up to now. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss their accomplishments as "flash and no substance".

        Unlike Tucker, Vector, etc -- Telsa will go down in history as a truely revolutionary car company (whether they ultimately fail or not) because they shook up and changed the entire industry.