Has anyone ever seen Elon Musk yawn

Electric car: The challenger

The challenger - page 1

The man who dared to attack the collective auto industry seems a little undecided right now. He's waiting at the counter of an organic vegetarian fast food restaurant in San Carlos in Silicon Valley - the family in front of him can't make up their minds, the children look at everything carefully, the mother gives them plenty of time. Martin Eberhard looks like he's considering whether it's impolite to overtake. Then he takes his tray and just does it. He doesn't look back at the surprised family.

Of course, Eberhard also knows the joke that is told in the auto industry. In Silicon Valley, the computer people say: If we built cars here, they would be twice as fast and twice as cheap every year, just like computers. And the engineers in Detroit said, Sure, and they'd crash twice a day, just like the computers.

But what counts is who laughs last, and so those who revolutionized the world with computers have started to transform one of the most powerful industries on earth. A young, high-spirited troop with the battle cry of the "car of the future" steps against the metallic armies of the old automobile world. The young have lost patience with the old. You are now assembling a car for the dawning climate age. The old people shake their heads and continue to build their cars from the end of the petrol era.

The man in the organic fast food restaurant is one of those impatient people. Martin Eberhard, 46 years old, very slim, he wears a full beard. He is a little reminiscent of an Austrian hiking guide. There is a tiny pin on his lapel - it looks like the stylized head of a bull. Head against the wall, not a bad symbol of what this man is up to. Eberhard founded the first car company in Silicon Valley, Tesla Motors, named after the ingenious and crazy Croatian inventor and developer of the electric motor Nicola Tesla, who found his fortune in America. The bull is the symbol of Eberhard's company.

Eberhard was just sitting in his gray Mazda 3 and winced at every electric sliding door he passed. His new little warning device, which should only tell him that the police are standing nearby with a flash unit, unfortunately also reacts nervously to the motion detectors on sliding doors. And there's a lot of that in an American mall. Does anyone even know this man at General Motors or DaimlerChrysler?

Oh yes, Martin Eberhard has been known there since January of this year at the latest. At that time, the vegetarian opened his company's fourth location in Michigan, very close to DaimlerChrysler and General Motors. Both car companies have slept through the environmental trend and are now suffering from a lack of technology and bad press. After the Tesla headquarters in Silicon Valley, the assembly hall in England and engine production in Taiwan, Eberhard has opened a research and development department in Michigan with 60 engineers who are already building the prototype for the next Tesla model there. And like the first car, this car will also be powered entirely by electricity and an electric motor.

Do the long-established automobile manufacturers really have to take this environmentally conscious vegetarian seriously? Maybe, because Martin Eberhard is a vegetarian, so he can do without. But he's an American vegetarian, and what he doesn't want to do without is the dream of a car that is climate-politically correct and yet still fun.

The fun is the top speed of his Tesla Roadster: 220 km / h. A sports car that was designed by Lotus in England and whose 248 hp electric motor accelerates from zero to one hundred in 4.2 seconds. The correctness of climate policy is its battery. And the price is: So far, the Tesla can only travel about 400 kilometers on one battery charge, but this includes the electricity for the heated seats, the CD player and the air conditioning. The car is charged at the socket, which takes three and a half hours and corresponds to two or three dollars, depending on the electricity tariff. The Tesla costs $ 92,000.

Four months after the first presentation of the prototype, the originally planned first hundred cars were sold - 170 have been added since then. George Clooney wrote the check right after his first test drive. The first hundred cars will be delivered at the end of 2007, the next in early 2008. The second model for $ 50,000 is now being worked on in Michigan. Martin Eberhard loves cars. That makes the man so dangerous for Detroit.

He takes his tray and walks through the brightly lit restaurant. Behind the windows is a parking lot the size of a football field, surrounded by large shopping centers and a few electronics stores. Endless suburban architecture. Anyone who lives here cannot be without a car and feels the rising oil price enormously. Here in Silicon Valley, the area between Stanford University and San Francisco, he has also seen first hand how an obsession can change the whole world. Because people like the chip developer Bob Noyce from Intel, Bill Gates or the Google founders put their trust in their ideas, driven by an exuberance that hardly exists anywhere else in the world. It is the combination of an enterprising urge to research with a disdain for the slow processes of established companies. Silicon Valley is the valley of the gold prospectors of our time. A modern western town, in which many fail, that is also part of the American dream, but where there are also those who, with the necessary luck, come across a gold vein.

The first was the digital revolution. The dream of limitless communication came true. Eberhard now wants to fulfill his next dream for himself and the world. He is convinced that the digital revolution will now be followed by the green revolution.

The numbers seem to prove him right. In 2005, US venture financiers invested $ 1.6 billion in clean technology startups, according to industry expert Cleantech Venture Network. 35 percent more than in 2004. In the first half of 2006 it was already 1.4 billion. The new gold rush is underway. Everyone is looking for a new Google miracle - this time with Cleantech. This makes this area the third largest after biotechnology and software. The green revolution is marching, not on the street, but in the laboratories.

This is exactly what people like the German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel are afraid of. They fear that in the USA the German green idea, which is so lovingly pampered and cherished, will turn into an industrial act with a financial impact that will destroy the lead that Germany still has in this area in a short time. There are experienced gold prospectors at the start.

In spring 2004, Eberhard's Tesla Motors was invested by Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, eBay founder Jeff Skoll and some of the largest venture financiers: VantagePoint, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, JP Morgan. All investors who believe that saving the world can make a lot of money. They bet 60 million on Eberhard.

The former partner became a competitor

Martin Eberhard is an entrepreneur. No one can imagine a world without cars anymore. But Eberhard, like everyone who invests in the environment in Silicon Valley, believes that rising oil prices, dependence on Arab oil states, events like Hurricane Katrina and the hot summers have created a need for alternatives. The sales figures for the Toyota Prius, the gasoline car with the small electric auxiliary motor, showed that, he says. But without someone who has the courage to offer a real series alternative to the internal combustion engine, this market remains untapped. And Eberhard has courage. He wants to build the car drive of the future.

For him, he says, it's not about the most innovative technology, nobody can afford it. For him, it's about building the most intelligent solution with the existing technology and bringing it to market quickly. Eberhard believes that you should not wait too long with anything in life. A sentence that makes sense in Silicon Valley. The Detroit auto industry, on the other hand, has a reputation and millions of customers to lose. Because what if the technology fails? Just in time before the Internet bubble burst, Eberhard had sold his e-book company NuvoMedia for $ 187 million. However, he had signed the sale that he would not compete with the old company. With that he was out of business. He needed a new idea.

At the time, Eberhard wondered whether the networked house was the technology of the future. He thought of developing a product that would wirelessly connect all of the home entertainment systems. But the Chinese were so quick in this area that he rejected the idea. By the time he wrote the business plan and collected capital, won customers and their trust, the Chinese would have long been in the market. "The Chinese have so many good engineers. But we had to learn that first," says Eberhard. And at some point these engineers will also discover the car.

It is difficult to say whether Eberhard Tesla Motors owes his divorce to him. In any case, in the middle of the search for ideas, his marriage fell apart, and to get your mind off things, it seemed best to buy a new car. One that he could park at home next to the BMW Z3, ​​the Toyota 4Runner and the Ford F-100 pick-up truck that he used to transport the paraglider. His wife had taken the Ford Crown Victoria with her.

The challenger - page 2

But none of the cars that Eberhard looked at over the next few weeks did not please him. "I was looking for something right." Something that was fun but didn't have that huge gas mileage. Crazy dream. But wasn't Silicon Valley where dreams like these came true?

Martin Eberhard grew up in the hippie town of Berkeley in the 1970s. It was the time of political and private rebellion, and Berkeley was the symbol of that alternative lifelong dream. Eberhard's grandparents emigrated there in 1933 after the Jewish grandmother heard Hitler speak in Berlin. The grandfather became a professor of Sinology here, the father of engineering, and the son studied computer science and electrical engineering and went to Silicon Valley.

At first Eberhard built computer chips with enthusiasm. But if he told a woman about it at a party, she usually yawned after the first few sentences. The e-book, Günter Grass and all the other authors he met through it, promised more listeners. But a car that was as fast as a Ferrari and still didn't use gas would get real attention. Tesla Motors, that sounded good. But a petrol-free car sounds like a mad inventor's mind, not a car that would ever be seen on the streets of America. That is exactly what Ian Wright thought when Martin Eberhard told him about it.

Ian Wright is Eberhard's neighbor, and despite his initial concerns, he's now also become his rival. And as is so often the case with these stories from the beautiful, fast-paced world of the New Economy, the two men had started out as partners.

Wright stands in the driveway of his two acre property high up in the mountains above Silicon Valley. The Pacific can be seen from the highest point of the wooded property. The shell of an imposing three-story wooden house stands on a plateau, with a smaller guest house crouching in front of it. The family lives there, and Wright needs the 400-square-meter wooden house for his cars.

Like Eberhard, Ian Wright is an electrical engineer. He is 51 years old and came to Silicon Valley from New Zealand 14 years ago. One of those who came here to work late into the night without grumbling. As long as you worked hard, anything was allowed. Nobody was bothered by David Coons, a programmer who worked for an animation company and took off his clothes after ten at night. The only enemies of the Silicon Valley people were the heart attack and the unions.

Wright was lucky with the stock options of his employers Altamar and Cisco, he soon had a fortune, the first thing he did was to buy a red 1978 Ferrari. Martin Eberhard knew that Wright knew a lot about cars. Wright had raced in Australia for a long time. One day Eberhard was at his door with an electric sports car that a small Los Angeles company had built. Wright should try it. He got into the little yellow car and drove up the winding Skyline Boulevard, which runs along the ridge above the Pacific coast. Wright accelerated. He was pressed into the seat. The car accelerated faster than anything Wright had driven before, and it was better in corners. Thanks to a special construction that braked the engine strongly when Wright just took his foot off the accelerator, he was able to accelerate until shortly before the curve, and then only brake with the slowing gas. It felt like being in a Formula 1 car. On this day Wright joined Eberhard.

The idea of ​​running cars with electricity is by no means new. At noon on June 11, 1895, 22 vehicles stood at the starting line in Paris to race as far as Bordeaux and back to Paris. It was the first Grand Prix race in the world, the track was 1,178 kilometers long, most of the vehicles were powered by gasoline, some by steam and one by electricity from batteries. The Parisian car manufacturer Charles Jeantaud drove his electric two-seater carriage to Bordeaux. He stopped at prepared places on the route to exchange the used batteries for new ones. However, due to a broken axle, he had to give up in Orléans. Nine cars reached the destination in Paris. Eight of them were gasoline-powered and one drove on steam.

After the automobile came to life around the middle of the 19th century, it was not clear for a long time which drive would prevail. In addition to electric and combustion engines, steam engines drove through the still manageable large cities. The ladies in particular loved the electric car, it was pleasantly quiet and didn't stink as badly as a gasoline engine. However, the range of the electric motors - 80 kilometers - became a problem for the increasingly enterprising citizens. They survived for a while in taxis and buses, then gradually disappeared from the streets of Europe and the United States. It would have stayed that way if California hadn't passed the "Zero Emission" law in September 1990.

California was fighting the worst air quality in the United States at the time. With this law, the California Authority for Air Pollution Control - under Republican Governor Courken Deukmejian - obliged the major automakers to produce an exact number of completely pollution-free cars. And only the electric car was free of pollutants. What California initiated on that September day 1990 with the "Zero Emission" law was probably the boldest environmental regulation of its time for one of the most powerful industrial lobbies in the world. And the lobby immediately took up the fight. General Motors even aroused the belief that such a clean car was possible. At the car show in Los Angeles a few months earlier, the group had presented the electric sports car "Impact", a development by engineers from California who had already built a solar car for GM that had won the 1987 World Solar Race in Australia. He was a gimmick.

With the new law, GM was suddenly obliged to actually produce the car; it stipulated that from 1998 onwards, two percent of all GM vehicles had to be electrically powered, in 2002 already five percent and from 2003 onwards ten percent. This also applied to Chrysler, Ford and the Japanese Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Mazda, because they all sold more than 35,000 cars a year in California at the time. Of course, nobody wanted to do without the Californian market, it is the sixth largest in the world. So in 1996 General Motors brought the further development of the Impact, the two-seater EV1, onto the market. (EV stands for Electric Vehicle.) Ford bought the Norwegian company Th! Nk, Honda built the EV Plus, Toyota and Nissan simply took one of their gasoline models and built an electric drive into it. Few of these cars could be bought for around $ 40,000. Most of them, including the EV1, had to be leased for between $ 250 and $ 500 a month.

If you buy the Hummer off-road vehicle, you save taxes - a hammer

But before the first e-cars were on the market, the car companies had already made changes to the law. It was expanded to include the fact that the quotas only apply if there was enough demand. And how do you manage demand? Some of the advertising posters for the EV1 that were in the movie Who Killed The Electric Car? can be seen give the impression that preventing demand was their goal. On an "advertising" poster you can see a scarecrow in the foreground, the EV1 drives small in the background. And a television advertisement in black and white shadow optics to threatening music is more reminiscent of a film about Hiroshima than an advertisement for a car that one should buy.

Anti-advertising or not - whether the demand for clean cars with a range of 100 kilometers and a battery charging time of six to eight hours in the vigorous nineties was actually great enough, or whether the car companies did everything they could to avoid demand in the first place , each side has its own point of view.

The fact was that GM stopped production of the EV1 in 2000 due to lack of demand. Shortly after the company bought the Hummer brand. The three-ton off-road vehicle could be tax-deductible as a business car. Savings: up to $ 100,000. For an electric car it was $ 4,000. California added another 9,000.

The Zero Law still existed, however. In the summer of 2003, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler sued the California government, and the Bush administration stood up to them. Washington's argument was that only Washington could require national auto standards. What California is doing there is a de facto standard imposed on the nation, because the Californian market is large. Indeed, other states have announced that they will follow California's example if it works. At the same time, George W. Bush announced that he would invest 1.2 billion dollars in research into hydrogen technology, which is far from being realized. In April 2003, the "Zero Emission" law was withdrawn, and the car manufacturers began to collect their 5599 leased electric cars again. GM even pounded his. As careful as a murderer is his corpse. So that there really was nothing left of the short electronic spring.

Incidentally, Mercedes developed the A-class at that time. The high construction of the car was necessary because it was planned as an electric car. The batteries should be installed in the ground. It was probably no coincidence that Mercedes overturned the electric drive after the law was overturned. For DaimlerChrysler, hydrogen was the drive of the future.

Over in California, however, Martin Eberhard did not allow himself to be dissuaded from his idea. However, the small Los Angeles company that built the yellow car he used to pick up Wright didn't have the courage to mass-produce the car. Eberhard, on the other hand, just lacked money. This is how he came to Elon Musk.

Musk had made a fortune with PayPal, a cheap online payment system. In the fall of 2005, he sold the company to eBay for $ 1.5 billion. At that time he was 31 years old. Eberhard dialed his number. The two had met a few years ago at the Mars Society, an association that includes scientists, astronauts and engineers, but also actors and science fiction fans from all over the world. Your goal is to colonize the red planet. A project that Eberhard finds philosophically exciting and on which Musk had built an entire business plan. After selling PayPal, Musk founded SpaceX and has been building rockets to send satellites into space ever since. But Musk has more plans. He wants to fly humanity to Mars.

The challenger - page 3

Musk thinks like a mathematician. Man is sluggish plus the climate catastrophe requires quick action and the world perishes. So what does a person need? A new planet. And how does it get there? With Musk's interplanetary travel agency. Another Silicon Valley idea. Who could ever believe that other people would take you after they were told about this project? NASA does it. Last summer, she placed a $ 278 million contract with Musk to first send cargo to the ISS and later, after the Space Shuttle can no longer fly in 2010 due to age reasons, also the NASA astronauts. Musk had also told about the Mars transports at the Mars Society meeting. Musk was the hero of the evening, he had money and a vision, and Eberhard saw to it that he too got to shake the hero's hand that evening.

Eberhard now speculated on the generous daring of this hand when he flew to Los Angeles to tell Musk about his electric Ferrari and what fascinates him so much about the electric drive. It is the only way, he explained to Musk, to make a car fast and economical at the same time. With a gasoline or diesel engine, one would always be at the expense of the other. A fast car always consumes more than a slow one. And low-consumption cars can never be fast. The electric motor removes this connection. As an energy storage device, Eberhard wanted to tie 6831 laptop batteries together in a block the size of a shoe chest. Musk liked the idea. He went into funding with $ 27 million. Silicon Valley thrives on ideas. And by charismatics who convince people with money of these ideas. Martin Eberhard is one of them. When he talks about his Tesla, he looks like little Asterix who drank a whole bottle of Sanostol.

The real revolutionaries of Silicon Valley live on Sand Hill Road. Here, behind Stanford University, is where all the major venture financiers have their offices. A golf course surrounds the winding Sand Hill Road, and the parking lot looks like the showroom of a European car show. Ferrari, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW, Bentley. Here is speculated on the economic success of tomorrow. At Eberhard, people were a little reluctant at first. "Tesla claims they developed a battery that has a lot of power and lasts 100,000 miles," said John Chen of Battery Ventures. "But batteries are chemically very complex. That is why they are only getting better slowly." However, the battery is the heart of an electric motor. It stores the energy that it needs to drive. And the better it does it, the longer the car will drive. At the turn of the century, heavy lead-acid batteries were used, followed by nickel-cadmium and nickel-metal hydride. In 1993 Sony introduced a lightweight lithium laptop battery. The successor model caught fire every now and then over the past year, but somehow it was managed. The Tesla now drives with these batteries. The entire car weighs 1,140 kilos, 450 of which is the battery and only 30 kilos of the engine.

From zero to one hundred in 3.1 seconds - faster than a Ferrari

"A huge amount of money has been invested in battery start-ups over the past five years," says Chen. Everyone is afraid of not being there when things suddenly pick up speed. That is why Sand Hill Road ultimately invested in Tesla. The financiers only set one condition: he should keep his feet on the ground. They banned Eberhard from paragliding.

In contrast to Eberhard, Ian Wright is a quiet person. Raised on a sheep farm, he felt like a native when he arrived in the United States. Nobody understood him. He mumbled. Wright was also not very good at speaking in front of large groups. He wasn't an entertainer, he was an electrical engineer. He was wearing correct shirts and lace-up shoes, not broken T-shirts and jeans. He has laboriously trained himself to present in seminars. But something else became the problem.

Martin Eberhard liked to talk about politics while at work. He came into the company and started: "It was a shame that Bush didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol, but now he also wants to produce oil in Alaska!" Then he talked about the Americans' carbon footprint and the dramatic effects of climate change, and again about Bush.

Wright countered this: "Martin, no one has yet proven that CO2 causes climate change. Not even one has scientifically proven that there is climate change at all." And then he quoted from his favorite website that discusses all of these so-called climate lies. Sometimes Wright would say, "Climate change is a myth, it's the new apocalypse after the Cold War." The mood was usually not so good afterwards. After a year they separated.

But Wright didn't let go of the electric car. He went into his garage and built his own. The X1, an open, small racing car with one of the fastest acceleration times in the world. From zero to one hundred in 3.1 seconds. The X1 beat a Ferrari 360 Spider (400 hp and 146,000 euros) and a Porsche Carrera GT (612 hp and 452,000 euros) on the racetrack near Sacramento. Only the 1.27 million euro Bugatti Veyron with its 1001 hp is half a second faster. The Bugatti consumes 30 liters per 100 kilometers - the X1 consumes the energy of one liter of petrol over the same distance.

Wright, the conservative country boy, and Eberhard, the liberal city boy, they are the two ends of an amazing coalition that is now woven across the United States. Wright also wants to reduce the Americans' dependence on oil from the Middle East. But like George Bush, he only sees them as a threat to national security and not to their environment.

And Eberhard? He builds cars for people who are willing to pay a little more for the environment, just not the price of having to roll around on a bike or a misshapen box. Tesla is the anti-smart. After the roadster, the White Star sedan is planned, after which only the price will decrease. Tesla wants to take on Toyota.

His ex-partner and today's competitor Ian Wright considers Eberhard's approach to be pointless. Wright is standing outside the ground floor office of his company Wrightspeed on this sunny morning, just a few miles from Tesla Motors. "If we really want to reduce gasoline consumption," says Wright, "then we have to look at who uses the most gasoline in the US. It's the pick-up trucks, the SUVs, the supercars." The top-selling car in the US last year was the Ford pick-up truck with 790,000 new vehicles. Second was the Chevrolet Silverado pick-up. Only in third place came a limousine. The Prius sold almost 107,000 times. "If you take all the new cars together," says Wright, "and calculate the fuel consumption for an assumed annual distance of 24,000 kilometers, you can see that 84 percent of the fuel is used by cars that require more than 10 liters per 100 kilometers." Wright smiles. He's proud of his numbers.

His idea for Wrightspeed goes in the opposite direction of Tesla. Like Eberhard, Wright also wants to sell the X1 in small numbers first. “Branding,” he says, “building the brand”. But then he wants to get bigger, he wants to build supercars, SUVs and pick-ups with a hybrid drive. "If you can reduce the consumption of a pick-up from 20 to 10 liters with it, you have gained more than if you replaced a five-liter car with an electric car." Wright wants the powerful patriots. He wants to convert their armada.

He wants to go the classic route, also in business. He would love to sell his technology to GM or Ford if it is successful. "Just like we do here in Silicon Valley. The small start-ups develop the ideas and are then bought by the big companies." He hopes Detroit will soon start to think that way too. "Maybe," Wright then adds, "but I'm just not brave enough. What Tesla is planning to take seriously with Toyota is just a size too big for me." Wright pushes up the garage door to his office, behind which is the X1. On the wall is a picture of the X1 with Wright and a small, tight-eyed man in the passenger seat. Wright had taken it for a test drive at the exclusive Quail rally in California last year. The entrance fee was $ 5,000 and could only be paid by invited guests. Nobody had really introduced Wright to the little man, who probably expected that his name alone would provide clarity. But Wright had never heard the name Jean Todt. Of course, he knew Ferrari, but he wouldn't have thought that this lazy man was the boss of the Ferrari Formula 1 team. The man had been out with bodyguards, an appearance Wright only knew from kings and presidents. He hadn't thought that Ferrari would claim a royal meaning in the old car world. And so King Jean dismissed the nouveau riche Ian after the test drive with a curt, polite "impressive" and was gone. She doesn't like to mix, the old and the new world.

It is late evening when Martin Eberhard pulls up in his Mazda in front of the Tesla headquarters, two large, flat concrete buildings. His license plate reads "Mr. Tesla". Maybe also to make it clear again who came up with the idea for all of this. Elon Musk was on TV recently to talk about Tesla. He didn't mention Eberhard at a single word. "That annoyed me." And a bit defiantly he adds: "Cars are just cooler than rockets." Mr. Tesla enters the company's windowless open plan office. 150 people work here, an elderly engineer is standing in a separate glass room and is explaining something to a group of younger people. "He gives them flight lessons after work," says Eberhard and continues to the factory halls. He enters it with the pride with which Q opens his lab for James Bond. Three roadsters can be seen. A red one that is connected to various computers like a patient in the intensive care unit, a black model that has just come back from an air duct in England, and a yellow one that has successfully passed a 40,000-kilometer cobblestone test and as a reward a test drive on one frozen lake in Sweden. Three other cars are currently in the crash test in Germany. Siemens is testing the airbags that the company manufactures for Tesla there. The wagons will probably never see the hall again.

Nothing in this place is reminiscent of a car repair shop - except for the cars. Behind a glass wall that looks like that of a recording studio, two young engineers are testing engine parts. Another is building a device that is reminiscent of a school experiment in chemistry. Nowhere is it oily or dirty, it doesn't even smell like a bit of rubber. "An electric motor," says Eberhard, "does without oil, filters and spark plugs. It has no gearbox, no valves, no clutch, no silencer and no exhaust save up." His laugh sounds like an internal combustion engine in need of maintenance.

When Eberhard leaves the hall, his cell phone rings. It's Elon Musk's turn. It wants to go over final design questions one more time. Shortly afterwards the doorbell rings again. Eberhard will soon have to decide where the factory for the White Star should be built. The choices are California, Arizona, New Mexico. The decision is about tax advantages, the companies that are in the vicinity and the local wages for the planned 400 employees. A week later they will have made their decision at Tesla. The new factory will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10,000 cars will roll off the assembly line here in 2009.

One more question, Mr. Eberhard. Don't your customers miss the sound of their car?