LA Auto Show: 5 minutes with Tesla engineer JB Straubel

The chief technical officer at Tesla Motors tells AutoblogGreen that 10 to 15 more test prototypes will be built next month as the company prepares to start manufacturing the much talked-about electric roadster in mid-2007. "We'll be finalizing the last changes we want to make from the first batch to the second," says JB Straubel, who was promoting the Tesla Roadster at the LA Auto Show. The first 10 prototypes are currently undergoing a variety of durability and validation tests around the world. "We're almost at the 50-yard line in our crash testing," adds Straubel, noting that the engineering team continues to make minor improvements as results are evaluated. "We've finalized all the major engineering decisions. From 10 feet you wouldn't recognize any changes that will be in the final production version."

Straubel, an electronics wizard who rebuilt a salvaged golf cart before he had his first car, says he doesn't see a major leap in battery technology in the near future and is skeptical of such claims circulating the industry. "People love to latch on to this great next idea but historically that's not how it happens. The reliable, tested technology gets better one step at a time." Straubel says low-cost performance batteries are holding back the development of retro electric conversions on existing vehicles. "There are hundreds, maybe thousands, who are very interested and will continue to convert all sorts of cars. The challenge is, where do you find a good drive system? Where do you get a high-performance battery? I think people will continue to convert to electric vehicles but they'll be shorter range and lower performance."


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