Tuesday, March 20, 2012

DESIGN West preview: Tesla CTO keynoting on EV innovation

DESIGN West preview: Tesla CTO keynoting on EV innovation: JB Straubel, chief technical officer and a founding team member of Tesla Mo...
B Straubel, chief technical officer and a founding team member of Tesla Motors, will discuss the challenges of creating electric cars in a keynote speech at the DESIGN West conference March 26-29 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, CA.

Straubel, who is considered a visionary for his work in the development of the Tesla Roadster and Model S vehicles, will talk about entrepreneurship, innovation, and the emergence of electric cars in the world market. He will also discuss his background and how he laid the foundation for a career in electric vehicles at a young age. The keynote, "Driving Innovation in Electric Vehicles," will be held at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, adjacent to the Design West show, on Wednesday, March 28, at 9:30 a.m.

UBM, host of the event, said it chose Straubel as a keynote speaker because he and Tesla embody the spirit of countless Silicon Valley startups. "We've wanted Tesla to speak here for a couple of years," says Colin Holland, content director for DESIGN West. "There's a lot of interest in this subject among engineers."

Straubel, who won the Design News Engineer of the Year Award in 2009, launched his career at 14, when he began rebuilding electric golf carts in Egg Harbor, WI. Because he didn't have a driver's license, Straubel coaxed his mother to criss-cross the state with him in search of batteries, tires, and electric motors.

A graduate of Stanford University's School of Engineering, Straubel created his own academic major in systems engineering at the school before joining Tesla on the ground floor in 2004. He spearheaded its development of the Roadster two-seat electric sports car, which he envisioned from the beginning as a car with an all-electric driving range of 250 miles. The Environmental Protection Agency later rated the $109,000 Roadster's range at 244 miles.

Though Tesla and Straubel have gained a reputation as the face of innovation in the electric car market, the journey hasn't always been smooth. In 2008, Newsweek reported that the first 40 Roadsters left the factory with drivetrains that needed to be replaced. More recently, Tesla faced a highly public problem when a Roadster owner left it low on charge and unplugged for about two months, permanently damaging the 990-pound battery pack. According to the New York Times, Tesla sent the owner a letter offering a replacement battery for "around $40,000." Straubel told the paper, "If you ran your conventional engine without oil, whose fault would it be? It would be the owner's."

The Model S from Tesla is expected to roll out this summer.
This summer, Tesla is planning to roll out its Model S, a long-awaited seven-seat electric vehicle that will use more than 7,000 lithium-ion battery cells. At the North American International Auto Show this year, the company displayed a flat battery pack that takes up almost no cabin space. The battery will come in three capacities, enabling all-electric ranges of 160, 230, and 300 miles for the Model S. The vehicle will cost between $49,900 and $79,900.

Colleagues have said Straubel has played a critical role in the development of the Roadster and the Model S. They say he sees Tesla's tasks as part of a mission to prove the viability of pure electric vehicles.

"It really feels like we're trying to change the world," Straubel told us in 2009. "There's a real David and Goliath feel to it."

DESIGN West conference information:
DESIGN West comprises seven summits. The conference takes place March 26-29 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, CA.

This story was originally posted by 
Design News.

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