A post on
Slashdot got my attention: Test Driving the Tesla Roadster.
Apparently, we’re about to get a lesson in what money and modern engineering and management skills can do. Martin Eberhard, who was the pioneer behind the Rocket eBook (killed by Reader’s Digest but living on in the hearts and minds of electronic book enthusiasts), is about to release the first production electric-powered sports car. How’s he getting around the battery issues? Eberhard, an electrical engineer, is using thousands of laptop batteries as cells.
Designed by Barney Hatt of Lotus Design in Europe, and assembled by Lotus Motor Car Co., the Tesla Roadster does 0-60-0 in 9 seconds flat, and will cost about $80,000 when it hits the market next summer. Its more sedate sedan cousin will debut in 2008, comparably priced with existing hybrids. Read all about it in Wired magazine.
What does this have to do with automation? Lots and lots.
The automation industry is chock full of entrepreneurs who created disruptive technologies and shattered large companies as they tried to monopolize the market and the end users. Just look at the big company names that no longer exist (remember my The Directory of Lost Companies) and realize that the most significant reason they no longer exist is that they could not adapt to the changing realities of the marketplace, both in engineering and management. “Not invented here,” was General Motors’ mantra long before it was Bailey’s, Fischer and Porter’s or Leeds and Northrop’s.
As you’ll see, when you read the Wired article, this is not only an exercise in great design engineering (the batteries) but also a tutorial on how to create a modern car company. Build it yourself? Hell no! The big auto makers have outsourced so much stuff that it is now possible to buy the same components for a car as they can.
I also noticed that the article mentions a radically designed copper-and-steel rotor…sounds a lot like the design of Siemens’ “New NEMA Motor” introduced earlier this year…that will be built in Taiwan.
Tesla Motors is being backed by Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal, and has investors like Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. The company is well funded, and this is likely to succeed.