A Tesla in every garage?

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Abstract

Last summer, as I drove around the San Francisco Peninsula, I caught glimpses of a sea change in American automobile culture. Plug-in electric vehicles and charging stations seemed to be everywhere. Near the entrance to Stanford University, I witnessed a three-car fender bender involving only electric cars. And perhaps most remarkable: the prevalence of the Tesla Motors Model S, a luxury electric sedan that's become the new status symbol among the tech-savvy. With more than 90,000 built to date, the Model S is now a common sight on Bay Area highways and byways. The Model S and Tesla's newer Model X sport-utility vehicle are unquestionably engineering marvels. And in the vision of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, they are nothing less than agents of change. Rivaling the best-performing internal-combustion automobiles, these green supercars are designed to reconcile comfort, power, and convenience with environmental sustainability, an ethos encapsulated in the current marketing slogan for the Model S: Zero Emissions. Zero Compromises. Sales of the high-end models S and X--versions of which sell for well over US 100,000--are supposed to provide the revenue needed to produce the Model 3, an affordable electric supercar for the masses, slated to be unveiled in March and in production in 2017. Eventually, as they and other electric vehicles proliferate and get tied into rooftop photovoltaic and energy storage systems, they will disrupt Rust Belt car manufacturing as well as the fossil-fuel industry, accruing environmental benefits in the process. As Musk sees it, Tesla Motors is not simply an automaker. It is an energy innovation company, a critical element in its broader quest for zero emission power generation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7419798
Pages (from-to)34-55
Number of pages22
JournalIEEE Spectrum
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2016

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Keywords

  • automobiles
  • electric vehicles
  • environmental economics
  • human factors
  • innovation management
  • internal combustion engine

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