At the founding of Tesla, Eberhard served as its CEO and Tarpenning served as CFO. They launched their company to develop and produce an entirely electric car, in part, based on the favorable reaction test markets had to General Motor’s (GM) – Get General Motors Company Report previous electric car experiment the EV1. Although GM only ran this program from 1996 – 1999, producing a limited run of cars that it never released for public purchase, it was generally considered successful from an engineering standpoint.
Engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded, Inc. in San Carlos, California in 2003. It was once known as Tesla Motors, but the firm changed its name in 2017. Nikola Tesla, a 19th-century inventor best known for discovering the phenomena of rotating electromagnetic fields, is the company’s name. His invention gave rise to “alternating current,” a type of electrical transmission that is still in use today. (This was in contrast to Thomas Edison’s preferred “direct current” approach, which was significantly less efficient.) Tesla is famous for his contributions to electrical engineering and science, and he has become a pop culture idol among engineers in recent decades.
Originally, Eberhard and Tarpenning dreamed of building an entirely electric sports car. In 2006 they unveiled the prototype for their Tesla Roadster which entered production in 2008. With the Roadster, Tesla achieved something that no company ever had. They produced an entirely electric car with practical specifications that could arguably meet consumer needs. Previous experiments in this field had failed because, among other issues, companies struggled to produce a battery powerful enough to keep cars on the road and a cost-effective motor that could fit inside a consumer vehicle and accelerate it to highway speed.
Eberhard and Tarpenning wanted to build upon that success. Although Musk has long been the face of Tesla, he did not join the company until 2004. He invested $30 million into the company and became the chairman of its Board of Directors. (Notably, Musk would also help raise money from Google (GOOGL) – Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 2006.)
This did not, however, make the Roadster a widely viable consumer product. At its release the car costs a little more than $100,000, pricing most consumers out of the market. Further, the company immediately ran into the problem of charging time. The original Roadster could require between 24 and 48 hours to recharge on a standard home outlet.
The Roadster met those needs. The first model produced in 2008 could travel almost 250 miles on a single battery, with acceleration and top speed compared to many consumer-level sports cars. The Roadster used a standard lithium-ion battery structure, common to many electronic devices, and customers could recharge the car in a standard wall outlet.