Here at AutoblogGreen, we like to give certain companies the benefit of the doubt; companies who aspire to go green in the automotive sector. This is a big reason why we love Tesla Motors and what they are attempting. They are taking on the establishment, and doing so with a beautiful roadster at that. Who wouldn't love to see them succeed? But, let's not overlook the monumental task that we are considering. Start-up companies have tried many times to break into the automotive sector; do I really need to name names? All right... De Lorean and Tucker come right to mind. John DeLorean was already a member of the established industry when he failed. Preston Tucker had lots of great ideas when he failed. Good ideas and good connections do not guarantee success, obviously. Now... don't worry, I'm not gonna go all TTAC on you or anything. The following views presented are not necessarily my or AutoblogGreen's opinions. We are just going to consider a few points that could make or break Tesla Motors. We will continue on with other companies with similar aspirations in due time. Here we go!
Here are the points that I will be touching on in this article: Batteries, Lotus and business models.
Read on, green car lovers, green car haters and green car conspiracy theorists, after the break.
1. Batteries. Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: Tesla is using laptop batteries. Lithium ion laptop batteries. Is this a bad thing? Let's consider it... Do you own a laptop? I do... three of them in fact (I'm an IT guy in another life). I've noticed something about the batteries in all of my laptops: They wear out. Worse: They are expensive to replace. Let's continue... I've never gotten one to explode, but they sure do get hot. Are they really what I want in my car to get me from here to there? Nope. At least not the ones in my own laptops - I don't trust them. Now, granted, Tesla has gone to great lengths to cool their batteries and provide them with sophisticated battery management controls and electronics. Doesn't that comfort you? No? My Toshiba laptop has Microsoft and Toshiba software on it that is supposed to extend the life of the battery too, and it also has internal circuitry to make sure that it is being treated right. But, Tesla has put their batteries through all sorts of tests to be sure that they work properly, and they have gone through life cycles over and over. Didn't my laptop maker do the same? Yes, they did, and so did Sony before they released and recalled their exploding batteries into, and subsequently from, the market. Tests are not the real life, and nobody has any good real-life experience with making laptop batteries work in a car. Does that mean they won't work? Of course not. Is it a real cause for concern? You betcha. They have already had to adjust their initial figures once, will they again, and will they be safe?
2. Lotus. Hey, I love Lotus. Their cars are awesome, I would love an Elise of my very own. But, is Lotus the best company in the world to be closely reliant upon? Perhaps not. Lotus has survived all these years despite numerous different owners. Sometimes they do very well, sometimes not so much. They certainly can engineer great things, and that is why many companies turn to them for help. How many companies can they support? Will they always be there to supply engineering assistance and very large assemblies to Tesla? I hope so, but I also believe that relying on them might prove to be a shaky prospect.
3. Business models. Do I have internal access to the Tesla board room? Not even close! But, very large sums of money have already been invested in Tesla Motors. How much more is there? How much more will be necessary before they turn a profit? Will they go public? If they do, how long of a leash will be available to them before investors want to see some return on their investments? These types of things have come back to haunt start-up companies many times in the past. Is an automotive company any different? I guess we'll see, right? While we are on the subject of money, do you recall the Ford rollover cases? How about the exploding gas tanks of the '70s and '80s? How about the numerous recalls from Toyota over the last few years? What am I getting at? Tesla has yet to put a product into a consumers hands, but when they do, they will be liable for them. Liability has brought down its fair share of companies in the past. So has some bad press. All it might take is one scandal to bring them down.
We have already discussed the fact that it takes a lot of money to start an automaker. Tesla has ambitious plans; after their Roadster, they plan on an upscale electric sedan, codenamed "Whitestar" which should sell for well less than their Roadster. After that, they plan on an even cheaper model. Where will the money come from? Roadster sales? Their possible IPO? Would that be good or bad for them?
Alright, put a fork in this post, it's done. Did you notice that I asked alot of questions? There is a reason for that. There are alot of question that need to be answered. I don't have the answers, both because I am not an expert on much that I have written about here and the fact that I have never started a company at all, let alone one that plans to market an automobile - and not just any automobile, one that is completely different than all the others on the road. None of what was written in this post means that Tesla will fail in their quest for automotive sales. Are you worried? Should you be?