Elon Musk is the President and CEO of Tesla Motors and the most recognized executive with this company. However, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning are credited with founding Tesla, bringing Musk in early on to lead the company. Tesla Motors is named for Nikola Tesla, a Serbian inventor, electrical engineer and physicist who died in 1943. His patented AC induction motor serves as the basis for Tesla Motors' own design.
In early 2007, Tesla began building "validation prototypes" of the Tesla Roadster to ensure that the sports car operated in accordance with the manufacturer's design goals and specifications. The prototypes enabled the manufacturer to test both the sports car's design and battery system to determine manufacturing ability, performance and reliability.
For building the Roadster, Tesla contracted Lotus Cars to supply the glider that represents the car's platform, but without the powertrain and shell. Thus, the Roadster was based upon the Lotus Elise and was assembled in part in the United Kingdom with final assembly accomplished in California.
This two-seat all-electric sports car is powered by an induction electric motor with two sizes used —185 kW or 215 kW. Paired with a single-speed BorgWarner transmission, the Roadster has an output that ranges from 248 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque to 288 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, depending on the electric motor. The 53-kilowatt lithium-ion battery provided an EPA-rated range of 244 miles, taking it farther than any electric vehicle had ever traveled previously. Tesla Roadster production continued in small numbers through 2012, with 2,450 units built worldwide.
Planning for Tesla's second model, code-named White Star, began in 2008. To enable U.S. production, Tesla partially purchased a manufacturing plant in Fremont, California, built by General Motors and later owned by Toyota. The sedan under development became the Model S, a full-size luxury model and competitor to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, Jaguar XJ and BMW 7 Series.
The Tesla Model S, a rear-motor, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive luxury sedan with a liftgate trunk was introduced in 2012. Powered by a three-phase AC induction motor and paired with a single-speed fixed gear transmission, the Model S was initially outfitted with 40-, 60- or 85-kilowatt batteries, giving it an EPA range of 240 to 310 miles. When it was introduced, a Model S with the 85-kilowatt battery pack offed 416 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, enabling this sedan to go from 0 to 60 mph in about 4 seconds, or just a few tenths off the pace of the Tesla Roadster.
The third model from Tesla Motors is the Tesla Model X. This SUV shares its platform and about 30 percent of its parts with the Model S. Under development since 2011, the Model X's introduction was delayed by a few years.
The Model X features rear falcon-wing doors and offers seating for six or seven. This all-wheel drive model features two electric motors and a 90-kilowatt battery pack that provides an electric range of about 250 miles. The electric motors provided 259 horsepower each on both axles; a high performance model upgrades the rear electric motor to 503 horsepower, delivering a 0 to 60 mph time of 3.2 seconds in Ludicrous mode, easily outpacing the previous SUV performance leader, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.