If you want to know what kinds of cars most people will be driving in the decades ahead, you need look no further than the electric cars being produced today by Tesla. More than any other brand, Tesla Inc. —– founded in 2003 as Tesla Motors — has become trendsetter in the electric car marketplace, helping bring electric vehicles into the mainstream of the global economy. While other carmakers are already scrambling to produce their own viable electric automobiles, Tesla, the pioneer, is unlikely to be surpassed either in terms of quality or of sales any time soon. Why? Two reasons: Quality products, and comprehensive strategy.
The Man Behind the Brand
If you want to learn about Tesla Inc., the come-from-nowhere upstart electric carmaker that is in the process of upsetting the entire American automotive industry, you need to first learn about the company’s leader, Elon Musk, who himself emerged from obscurity to become one of the world’s wealthiest and most prominent men. He did not found Tesla, but indeed it is Musk who has made the company into the powerhouse that it is today.
Merely listing the companies Elon Musk has founded, co-founded, or supported through their nascence requires a paragraph or two even without annotation. The most prominent ventures this South African-born Canadian American inventor and businessman has launched include SpaceX, a company dedicated to private space travel and transport and with an eventual eye toward colonization of other planets, and SolarCity, a company devoted to the production and sales of solar energy technology.
I mention only these two companies despite Musk having had a hand in many more for good reason. First, the lofty goals the man has for SpaceX help shed light on his audacity and his commitment to patient, long-term planning. And his founding of SolarCity shows a strategic, sagacious mindset: at just about the same time that this man was founding a company that created electric cars, he was developing a brand dedicated quite literally to creating electric power. (In comes circles, this is called vertical integration.)
And before Musk joined Tesla, launched SpaceX, or co-founded SolarCity, he was instrumental in developing PayPal, a now globally ubiquitous online financial services platform — to say he has wasted little time since his birth in 1971 is something of an understatement. The cash Musk received when PayPal was bought out by eBay helped him launch the businesses for which he is now known worldwide. Suffice it to say that Musk brings a level of talent, foresight, and sheer intelligence that most CEOs can scarcely match. And he does that as CEO of multiple major companies.
But the man is one thing, the brand is something else. After all, it’s the cars we care about…
The First Tesla Car – Roadster: A Proof of Concept
The first car Tesla Motors produced (way back in 2003 when the company was called Tesla Motors) was the Tesla Roadster, the world’s first production electric sports car. The company would produce and sell almost 2,500 Roadsters between 2008 and 2012, making this unique vehicle the first mainstream high performance electric car. The Tesla Roadster could go from zero to sixty miles per hour in 3.8 seconds, and could travel just over 240 miles on a single charge. It sold for about $110,000 on average. The vehicle has been out of production for half a decade, but there are rumors of another generation of Tesla Roadsters coming out in the next few years.
The Tesla Model S – Electric Goes Mainstream
The Nissan Leaf electric vehicle was first sold in America in 2010, and was briefly the best selling electric car in the nation. But with a range of only about 100 miles per charge, a top speed below 100 miles per hour, and a sluggish zero to sixty time of almost ten seconds, the Leaf is hardly an exciting vehicle, clean and efficient through it may be. Consumers looking for excitement in their electric cars look to the Tesla Model S.
The Model S was first sold in 2012, and by the year 2015, the Model S was the top selling electric car in the world. This is especially impressive when you compare the Nissan Leaf’s price tag of around $30,000 with the Model S’s price of around $70,000 (as a base model). The Tesla Model S comes in several different variations, but as an average, the Model S has a top speed of near 150 miles per hour and a range of about 300 miles per charge. Most Model S cars can hit sixty miles per hour in about 4.4 seconds.
This is the car that brought electric cars to the mainstream, winning fans who had previously dismissed electric vehicles as underpowered and unexciting.
The Tesla Model X – The E-SUV
The Tesla Model X was a de facto announcement to American carmakers and consumers: the era of the big, gas guzzling SUV was coming to and end, it said, but that was no reason to say goodbye to the SUV. This crossover SUV can travel more than 250 miles per charge and has a top speed of 155 miles per hour. The Model X with a Ludicrous upgrade can accelerate from a standstill to 60 MPH in just 3.8 seconds.
The Model X is rather expensive, with a base price of more than $82,000, but it is a versatile car suitable for family use: it can seat seven people and still have room left over for luggage, groceries, and other sundries. Its “falcon wing” rear doors fold up rather than out, easing access to the rear seats and also looking cool in the process, which certainly counts for something.
The Tesla Model 3 – The Future of the Electric Car
The basic model of the recently released Tesla Model 3 has a range of about 220 miles per charge. Its zero to sixty mile per hour timing is about 5.5 seconds. And its top speed is about 140 miles per hour. So all told, it lags behind other Tesla models in all categories. So why is the Tesla Model 3 the electric car of the future? Because once production has gotten into full swing and Tesla is selling thousands of these vehicles per month, they estimate the price of the Model 3 will be about $35,000.
That means the Tesla Model 3 will be the first electric car that is both imbued with solid performance and that is in the price range of most people shopping for a new car. With its long range per charge and its plentiful pickup and top speed, the Model 3 offers much more performance than the Nissan Leaf, the only other all-electric car currently in the same price range. So who cares if it’s not quite a sports car like the Tesla Roadster or a luxury sedan like the Model S?
According to recent reports, there are more than 1,800 Tesla Model 3 orders being placed each and every day right now. That means that this car will soon be a ubiquitous sight on American roadways. And the more common the Model 3 becomes, the more infrastructure will be developed and spread out to accommodate it and other electric cars, e.g. charging stations. As this infrastructure becomes ever more common, it follows that other carmakers will eventually want to take advantage of it, and will turn to electric vehicles at last.
The true measure of success of the Tesla Model 3 is not the 1,800 orders a day it’s getting in August of 2017, but it will be how many competing electric vehicles you see on the road in 2027 and 2037 and beyond. Tesla Inc. has proven the concept of electric cars as viable many times over, now it’s up to the consumer to speak with their purchasing power and for the major automakers to finally climb aboard the steamroller of progress that is the electric vehicle.
One forgets at his or her own peril that at one point the steam engine was considered the pinnacle of technological innovation. The death knell of the combustion engine sounds like an electric motor, and it rings none too soon: while we can count on solar energy for another several hundred million years, we can’t count on fossil fuel for more than another few generations.