Could Tesla Motors revolutionize the auto industry, again?
Ten years ago all electric vehicles like the EV1, EV Plus, RAV4 EV, and others were relegated to the back burner when the automakers successfully fought the CARB ZEV mandate, and got CARB redirected to support hydrogen fuel cell research while the automakers went full bore into SUV sales. Some game changing events occurred a few years ago changing the direction of the automakers enough that there are now several electric vehicles on the market, in mass production by major automakers, on sale around the world. One significant event was the development of Plug-in Prius conversion kits by activists who launched a cottage industry of Prius conversions, keeping the "plug-in vehicle" on the table. The second, and more important, was the rise of Tesla Motors and the success of the Tesla Roadster. Because the success of Tesla made the major automakers EV programs look so bad, the company is credited with having given justification for major automakers to re-enter the electric vehicle market. Tesla Motors, with the Model S/X, appears poised to revolutionize the auto industry, again.
One may look at the total sales of Tesla Roadsters, 2500, and curiously ask how that can be called a success. That car competed in a narrow niche market of upscale high end sports cars, where 2500 sales is a significant number. Especially for an expensive electric car.
Those 2500 Tesla Roadsters were, according to Revenge of the Electric Car, what enabled Bob Lutz (then Vice-Chairman of General Motors) and Carlos Gohsn (CEO of Nissan/Renault) to re-awaken electric vehicle programs within their own companies. It's not just GM and Nissan, but Ford, Daimler, BMW and others, who re-awoke their sleeping EV programs when the Roadster came on the scene. To be fair it wasn't just the rise of Tesla Motors, because there's also rising concern over environmental pollution, greenhouse gases, and oil supply crunches, that are causing governments around the world to change the regulations to favor efficiency and a move away from fossil fuels.
Tesla's role in this is to design and manufacture no-compromise all electric vehicles, ones that demonstrate electric vehicles can be fun, beautiful, and powerful. Tesla's founders knew the Roadster would have to blow up and demolish the negative stereotypes around electric vehicles, that they can only be slow boring ugly golf carts. To do so the Roadster was designed with top end acceleration and top speed, built on a chassis provided by Lotus Engineering, and equipped with a huge battery pack allowing way more electric driving than is rationally needed.