• Aug 27, 2009
Tesla Roadster – Click above for high-res image gallery

One of the Tesla Motors co-founders, Martin Eberhard, has been in the news a lot this summer thanks to a lawsuit with current CEO Elon Musk. The other co-founder, Marc Tarpenning, hasn't said all that much about the time before we all knew instantly what Tesla Motors is. Until today.

Speaking this morning at IBM's Almaden Institute 2009 in San Jose, California, Tarpenning discussed how Tesla came to be and gave us a few details about those early days. Of interest, thanks to Earth2Tech:
While the Tesla Roadster is the electric-car poster child now, it could have been a hydrogen or biofuel car. Tarpenning said that "about half" of the people in the venture captal community wanted to learn more about fuel cells and the rest were down on hydrogen because "the energy equation doesn't make sense," and so they decided to go EV.

Tarpenning said he is "a little skeptical" about Tesla Motors being able to deliver on the 2011 production date for the Model S and the biggest problem for EVs gaining broader acceptance are the weak batteries. "The batteries really aren't good enough yet," he said
.


Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.

[Source: Earth2Tech]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 30 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Sean,

      Greg Blencoe was simply explaining some of the reasons why Toyota is investing in fuel cell electric cars. What I appreciate about his approach is that he supports the use of batteries in electric vehicles and also supports the balanced option of expanding electric vehicle use through the use of fuel cells fueled by hydrogen.

      You make a good argument to support battery electric cars. I do too for certain target markets. However, it's unclear why you think you're more of an expert about fuel cell electric cars than Toyota.

      Toyota is the number one auto company in the world, has no debt, and has clearly stated their commitment to fuel cell electric vehicle technology. I'm sure they have more expertise on this technology and have likely given it more analysis than you are able to. They have a substantial brain trust of engineers and business development specialists working on it. What makes you think that you know more than they do? What makes you think that you know more than Honda, Daimler, Hyundai, Volkswagen, etc.?

      Finally, it doesn't make sense to put all your eggs in one basket. Move forward with batteries and fuel cells in case the advancements promised fail to materialize by one of them, and hopefully not both.





        • 5 Years Ago
        "Toyota ... has clearly stated their commitment to fuel cell electric vehicle technology"
        I don't think Toyota is committed hydrogen to fuel cells. They want people to believe that the Prius is the best modern technology can offer. They are heavily infested in ICEs and are not eager to move away from them. I think their hydrogen program is a PR stunt in which some very smart people got tunnel vision and convinced the board members to keep going. I am willing to bet that they will have a mass produced BEV for sale before a mass produced HFCV.

        Toyota is a very large organization and although they have plenty of smart people it is not always the right people making decisions. Such as ogrganization can get stuck in its ways and make bad decisions. I would put more stake in what an intelectually agile company such as Aptera has to say.

        I saw the Toyota FCHV at Semicon a few years ago. I talked to one of the people showing it off and asked him how efficient it was. He said he didn't know off hand but gave me a ballpark figure. I looked into it and he was off by a factor of 3 or 4.

        I don't think that I'm smarter than Toyota, but I can do some basic research which is enough to see that Hydrogen is a bad way to store electricity. It's inefficient and expensive. I've spoken to physicists about it and there are plenty of very smart and knowledgeable people who agree with me.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Great. Now Blank-o is posting under multiple names in order to fabricate support for his position.

        "jtak"/blank-o, do you really think that falsifying posts under another name HELPS your cause?

        Do you think that being known as a hopeless shill for your own products helps your cause?
      • 5 Years Ago
      It is a silly comment. Batteries are not comparable to pouring gas into a tank. However, battery electric cars are cheaper per mile. If we had the cheap nimh batteries available over the last ten years then they would have proved that they were good enough to satisfy market demand. The fact that they were not available had nothing to do with markets or the technology. It was pure technology squatting.

      Batteries technology is good enough for cheap urban commuter cars. Talk to RAV EV owners as proof or go get the data from the SouthernED EV fleet.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Batteries are not "weak", but currently they are expensive enough that sub-$50,000 "pure" BEVs are range-limited to the point that for most they will remain commuter vehicles.

      So, apart from pure BEVs, there are those working on range-extended BEVs as a "do-all" replacement for current ICE-based vehicles.

      The Volt will use an ICE-based range extender.

      Others are using a fuel-cell range extender (yes, a FCV is a BEV with a smaller battery and a large fuel cell stack)

      However, a vehicle fuel cell system is so breathtakingly expensive it will be decades before it can compete economically with an ICE-based range extender (even with $20/gallon gasoline)

      By that time batteries hopefully will have improved to the point range extenders won't be necessary, at least for light passenger vehicles.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm a fan of electric cars, but also think there is much life in the ICE. What makes ICE bad is the fuel choice, the black death liquid we got snakeoiled into by the Rockefellers. The solution for this is the same as it always has been: ethanol (and possibly other alcohols).

      The only hybrid I would consider technologically desirable at this point of time would be an electric powered car with an ethanol generator feeding it either directly or through a small battery pack. The overengineered pieces of crap we're being sold are part of the problem, we need to think some elegance into the designs so we can achieve actual environmental positive impact, not just green marketing trying to fool us so we don't see it's just an attempt to get us to fall for higher total cost of ownership for our cars.

      That said I like electrics too, as the basic car is durable and the battery packs are bound to evolve down the road, so the idea of getting a range and possibly even power boost 5-10 years down the road isn't bad, as well as a very possible weight reduction.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry, the Rockefellers didn't make the choice between electric and ICE at the turn of the century, *we* did.

        Collectively, consumers said back in 1920 "Well, gasoline is stinky and horrible and expensive, but it gets me farther without long recharge times, so I'll buy a gas car instead of an electric". This was back in the day when 35 MPH was barely *possible*, let alone the speed limit on city streets.

        Heck, if anything, Big Oil did their very best to *discourage* the use of gasoline back in the day by gouging customers (and I don't mean by the nickel or dime a gallon they do these days, I mean gas was 3-5x the price in towns that Shell had monopolies in). Their actions back then are the main reason for anti-trust laws today.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'll see your ten years and call it 5, with a buyable product in 7.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry ernie, I have to clarify. While there were electric cars at the start of the century the battery technology back then never really was up to par with the ICE. And tesla got shut down by J. P. Morgan, not the Rockefellers, although they're snakes from the same pit I suppose.

        I was referring to the choice between biofuels, specifically alcohol, which was THE fuel of choice for the original automobiles and petroleum products, which came out of that hellspawn that was standard oil and old man Rockefeller. This choice was entirely tilted into petroleums favour in no small way with prohibition, which imo had much more to do with the building of an energy monopoly than it ever did with drunken husbands. The groups that brought in prohibition were bankrolled by the same people that made the money from oil. And the rest is history.

        Sly foxes those Rockefellers. Biofuels would have been the right technological and environmental choice. We have the opportunity, now, a century or so later, to correct this wrongdoing which personal greed and selfishness has inflicted on civilization. Up to us.

        Electric is good too, I'm not against it by any means. It needs to get established, because it's the most direct use of energy and battery or energy sourcing needs to evolve, however converting to alcohol whenever possible is the most direct course to and environmentally sound future. And carefull with the antialcohol propaganda, most of it is lies and disinformation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      H2 will never be a fuel source, as it does not contain enough energy to compete with petrol in an ICE, and fuel cells by nature have a horrible space:energy ratio.

      H2 is a highly reactive gas, only found as and end product from other reactions, so any conversion back to gas is horribly inefficient.

      The most available forms of hydrogen are acids (which present the obvious problems) and fossil fuels (where nature has done us a favour instilling a million years of energy in a long chain organic molecule).

      The secret will always be in efficiency (where an electric motor is about as efficient as possible).

      • 5 Years Ago
      If Tesla had gone the H2 fuel cell route, their roadster would cost 5x more and would have half the acceleration, and it wouldn't arrive until 2015. I'd say Tesla made the right choice to go BEV all the way.

      So batteries aren't perfect. So what. Nothing in this world is perfect, we just gotta go with what we've got.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ocean wave energy machines can be mass produced but to transport that electricity directly, most of it would be lost over distance. Thus comes hydrogen. If you used ocean wave energy to produce electricity and electrolysis to make hydrogen and pumped the hydrogen to shore using the same up and down energy, you would have a clean abundance of hydrogen. Unless you want to argue that water doesn't have hydrogen in it...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Boyprodigy1 -- I feel sorry for you on this post. You are going to get completely ripped up. Pure hydrogen ready to be put into a fuel cell is NOT abundant. The closest source of pure hydrogen is Saturn. Most of the hydrogen on this planet is in compounds that would have to be broken up before you could collect the pure hydrogen to put into a fuel cell.

        The most common ways are from reforming natural gas, or by splitting water. Neither of which is a good way of getting fuel for a power plant.

        The natural gas would be better utilized if it were burned instead of converting it into hydrogen first, then run through a fuel cell.

        And the power plant run on hydrogen from water would need 2 or 3 power plants of about the same size to split the hydrogen from the water before it was put into the fuel cell power plant.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Boyprodigy1: High voltage electrical transmission is very efficient, about 93%, even over several hundred miles. But the combination of water electrolysis, compression for piping and storage, and fuel cells is about 24% efficient (that's not including H2 leaks). If you need energy storage, batteries are more efficient at 85% for charger and batteries. Even if we used a stationary battery for energy storage and used that battery to recharge an EV, the combined efficiency of that dual battery setup is still 72% efficient, still 3x more efficient than the H2 electrolysis route.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sure fuel cells are expensive and inefficient but hydrogen is so abundant that we would be stupid to not look into fuel cell technologies. it may not be viable for a car but what about giant fuel cell power plants? People need to start thinking outside of the box and look into the good that things can bring in the future. Thats the same thing that annoyed me about this guy.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I love it...

        'Electricity transmitted across wires experiences losses.... so let's turn it into H2 and pump it through tubes, then turn it back into electricity.'

        Yes, to avoid losing ~7% (or probably less, since there's plenty of wave energy close of population centers), we'll sacrifice 40% of the energy to turn it into H2, probably 10% of what's left to pump it around, then about 45% of what's left of that to turn it back into electricity.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Boyprodigy1 - So many problems with your idea. Yes, there is hydrogen in water, don't be stupid. But your idea is possibly the least efficient method of getting wave energy to turn car wheels ever.

        First off, where are you that you are building wave machines a long distance from people? I can't think of a single place on US coastlines that is more than 200 miles from a major US population center. So we're talking about 200 miles max to connect into an existing major hub of the current existing electrical grid, where it can be distributed to all who need it. And it has the flexibility to power cars, homes, businesses, whatever.

        Hydrogen on the other hand, will go the same 200 miles in a pipeline, and ??? And then what? Where does it go next? You still have to get the hydrogen out to car owners. By truck? By more non-existent pipelines? And it will only be able to power cars and fuel cells, so there is much less flexibility. Loser idea already. The only folks to benefit from this would be idiots who own hydrogen pipeline businesses.

        But even if you solved the pipeline problem, you still have all the classic inefficiencies to worry about.

        The wave-to-wheel energy path for an electric car is just 6 steps: Wave-->electricity-->powerline-->charger-->battery-->motor-->wheel.

        For hydrogen it is much worse at 10 steps:
        Wave-->electricity-->hydrogen-->low pressure compressor or liquidifier-->pipelines-->high pressure compressor-->fuel cell-->inline battery charger-->battery-->motor-->wheel.

        When you cancel out the parts in common for both, you have this:
        electricity-->powerline-->charger
        vs.
        electricity-->hydrogen-->low pressure compressor or liquidifier-->pipelines-->high pressure compressor-->fuel cell-->inline battery charger

        Please calculate the math for both of these, and then come back. My guess is that you will find you will need somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5 more wave stations to power hydrogen fuel cell cars as to power electric cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Even worse, the only way to fuel it would be at designated stations that are far and few inbetween. All that infrastructure just doesn't exist yet and will take billions of dollars to build...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Come on people:
      If you are going to produce and sell those "awesome" Fuel Cell cars; how do you intend to do this WITHOUT at the same time building an electric car?
      A fuel cell car, isn't it the very same as taking a Volt, removing the combustion engine and replacing it with a fuel cell, replacing a simple liquid fuel tank with a high pressure gas tank and changing the controlling systems for the previous mentioned?
      - this battery is almost as expensive as a larger pure EV battery, you need the same controls as the pure EV, PLUS you need systems for H2-control (or whatever fuel you use).

      Fuel Cells as RANGE EXTENDERS for EVs do have some points, those would be great, but that saying that "fool sell cars" are way better than BEVs is just plain stupid.
      • 5 Years Ago
      While batteries can be bought easily, it would have been very difficult for Tesla to raise the amount of money needed to research hydrogen fuel cells in order to be competitive with Toyota.

      Toyota started their in-house hydrogen fuel cell research program back in 1992 and the company now spends an average of nearly $1 million per hour (nearly $24 million every day!) to research future technologies. While I'm not sure how much of that amount goes to fund hydrogen fuel cell research, I'm sure it is a big number.

      Daimler is investing a total of approximately $700 million between 2009 and 2011 on hydrogen fuel cell vehicle research. And the company has already spent well over $1 billion on the technology.

      The bottom line is that it is simply very difficult for start-up companies to compete with the research budgets of major car companies. This is not the internet.

      Oil companies are actually not very interested in hydrogen. If they were, there would be a lot more than 60-70 hydrogen fueling stations in the entire U.S. And only a few of them were built by oil companies. In my view, their goal is to maintain the status quo. If you are going to say the oil companies love hydrogen, then you also have to say that ExxonMobil loves batteries since they are doing research in this area. So why not say oil companies will just dominate if lots of battery vehicles were sold??? You don't think they would start buying up utilities and solar companies whose panels go on roofs? But you never hear that.

      Moreover, the hydrogen fueling stations can be built via hydrogen fueling station cooperatives where 2000 consumers in a given area buy a hydrogen fuel cell car and each pay $2500 extra to finance a $5 million large-scale hydrogen fueling station (and own 1/2000th of it). This would not require the federal government or the oil companies.

      And aligning hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with fossil fuels while not mentioning that 50% of the electricity in the U.S. comes from coal and 20% comes from natural gas is very questionable. Hydrogen can be produced from wind and solar power in the future. And the heat from all of the abundant solar power that is available can be used in thermochemical cycles to produce hydrogen directly very efficiently. It doesn't have to be through electrolysis with solar power which is less efficient due to the conversion losses.

      Furthermore, Justin Ward from Toyota recently said that the costs of the company's hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that are released in 2015 would be so low that they would be "shocking" to most people in the auto industry. And Irv Miller said that Toyota's goal is to have an "affordable" hydrogen fuel cell car in 2015 that will be "durable" and "reliable."

      On the other hand, batteries are very expensive.

      And the Toyota FCHV-adv hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is superior to battery vehicles in so many other ways that matter to mainstream consumers:

      1. Driving range - 431 real-world miles (Side note: 68.3 miles per kilogram of hydrogen in the same DOE test)
      2. Fueling time - 3-5 minutes
      3. Trunk/passenger space - Same as Toyota Highlander Hybrid (the gasoline-powered version of the FCHV-adv)
      4. Extreme weather performance - Current version operates as low as -22 degrees F and future versions will go even lower

      Greg Blencoe
      Chief Executive Officer
      Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc.
      "Hydrogen Car Revolution" blog
      http://hydrogendiscoveries.wordpress.com
        • 5 Years Ago
        No production model for sale for a quarter of a century from two of the biggest car companies in the world.

        Billions of dollars spent, millions each day, still nothing even slightly ready to be sold.

        Then a complete nobody of a company appears and aces these major car makers by putting a GREAT electric car on the market in just a fraction of the time spent on hydrogen, and for a tiny, tiny fraction of the cost. And they have a second model for half the price headed to market before the big guys ever start selling their first production model!

        Thanks for helping explain the fuel cell's failure, Glenny.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Toyota's goal is to have an "affordable" hydrogen fuel cell car in 2015 ... On the other hand, batteries are very expensive."
        Wow. You seem to imply that fuel cells are cheaper than batteries which could not be further from the truth. If you actually believe that fuel cells are cheaper than batteries just come out and say it so we can all laugh at you.

        "Toyota's goal is to have an "affordable" hydrogen fuel cell car in 2015 that will be "durable" and "reliable.""
        Toyota is a competent company. They might be able to get the price of a vehicle resembling the RiverSimple golf cart down to around the $50k price of the Tesla S by 2015. They could make it "durable" and "reliable." I'll stick with the Tesla S.

        "1. Driving range - 431 real-world miles (Side note: 68.3 miles per kilogram of hydrogen in the same DOE test)"
        Tesla S gets 300 miles with a much cheaper vehicle
        "2. Fueling time - 3-5 minutes"
        MIT is making a BEV that can go 200 miles on a 10 minute charge. The reason this isn't common is that it costs more, but is still drastically cheaper than a fuel cell.
        http://dvice.com/archives/2009/07/mit-electric-ca.php
        "3. Trunk/passenger space - Same as Toyota Highlander Hybrid (the gasoline-powered version of the FCHV-adv)"
        Tesla S fits 7 people + luggage
        "4. Extreme weather performance - Current version operates as low as -22 degrees F and future versions will go even lower"
        Lithium Ion batteries work down to -20c, you win by 2 degrees

        Try comparing fuel cells to batteries instead of just talking about how cool the million+ dollar prototype is.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Place your bets people!"

      GM, Toyota, and Honda have developed and mass produced many impressive technologies.

      Tesla has taken a chassis developed by someone else, a motor developed by someone else, a bunch of electronics developed by someone else, and batteries developed by someone else and assembled a car that has almost no utility and is way overpriced.

      I'll place my bet on GM/Toyota/Honda. If they say they can make fuel cells affordable, they probably can. And 200,000 miles worth of hydrogen costs less than the battery pack in a Tesla Roadster - and probably takes less energy to produce.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Your comment sis uninformed. Yes, Lotus helped with the dhassis, but the motor is a Tesla design, and they have patents on it. The individual battery cells are standard commodity types, but the battery pack is a Tesla design and they have a patent on that. The control electronics is a Tesla design.

        The car has plenty of utility, and yes it is overpriced, just like the first cell phones, first VCRs and first computers. That doesn't mean that cell phones, VCRs, and computers were bad ideas, and neither are electric cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The only way I see dedicated BEVs becoming mainstream:

        1) There is a battery (or capacitor) breakthrough such as that of EEStor

        and

        2) the EEStor units (or other energy storage devices) are easily swapped out in a similar manner to Project Better Place
        • 5 Years Ago
        "I'll place my bet on GM/Toyota/Honda"
        GM is definatly not in the hydrogen camp. They are betting their future on the Volt, a range extended BEV and have no production plans for a hydrogen vehicle. Just because they don't stand up and say "even though Toyota says they can make an afordable fuel cell, we can't" doesn't mean they think hydrogen is the future.
        Toyota plans to produce a BEV long before a HFCV ( http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123168046746371557.html) so its hard to say that they are betting on hydrogen.

        "And 200,000 miles worth of hydrogen costs less than the battery pack in a Tesla Roadster"
        200,000 miles worth of hydrogen costs serveral times as much as 200,000 miles worth of electricity and a fuel cell cost vastly more than the battery in a Tesla and Fuel cells need to be replaced significantly more often than batteries.

        The only way you can believe that HFCVs will ever be cost competitive with BEVs is by assuming that HFCVs will drop in price by more than an order of magnitude while BEVs stay the same price. I'll place my bet on logical thought.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Batteries suck and Fuel cells are too expensive...

      Its this kind of thinking that has made it take as long as it has to get the electric car to the consumer. I am a fan of battery electric myself but if i saw a viable hydrogen fuel cell car i would explode in excitement. This guy sounds like an idiot...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I guess that is fair. As i said, i am a fan of BEV's but I just think that these engineering powerhouses really need to quit bashing alternatives. Then stupid people get the idea that that energy source has no future, which as ABG readers we all know that is about as far from the truth as it gets. Thus i feel justified in calling this guy an idiot. Also a present day battery holds way more than enough power for me. I could live with a leaf. So i am not sure what he is getting at...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm a fan of plug-ins too and I wouldn't mind too much if hydrogen cars became viable. However a good point made by a commenter here is that in the end, hydrogen still puts the power in the hands of the oil companies (they seem to be the only ones closest to capable of delivering enough hydrogen for our fleet in the future), which have a history of gouging the consumers. So even if economically it works out that we have a hydrogen infrastructure and hydrogen cars, it'll probably mean more of the same in terms of energy security.

        Also, hydrogen does almost nothing to spur a cleaner grid, while with BEVs we can focus all our attention on the grid, knowing it's our source of emissions, and it's about time we clean up our grid.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd make the same bet as Sean - that neither Toyota nor Honda will have a FCHV *for sale* in 2015, 2020 or ever for that matter. I think this time the physics and the economics are just too big for the suits and dreamers to get their own way, and I'm very glad about that. If we're going to transition technologies for our personal transportation it would be the greatest folly to switch from one horrendously inefficient technlogy to another. Place your bets people!
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