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How Tesla Can Make Industry-Beating Vehicles

When I was in my freshman year of engineering school at Colorado School of Mines one of my final design projects was to design a transportation system on the moon using primarily materials already available on the moon. The crazy thing was that this "out there" project was from none other than NASA.

Why would NASA have an interest in letting 18-year-old kids with no real experience design such an audacious plan? The reason was simple: As kids, with little formal engineering knowledge we didn't yet know what we didn't know. Like a child making art for the first time, there weren't any limits. The numbers of possibilities were endless and the resulting presentations from each group spanned from conceivable to absolutely ridiculous. But that was the point. NASA was starting with a clean slate and looking to generate as many ideas as possible for a system that had never been built before.

Starting with a clean slate
The slate was almost as clean for Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) engineers designing the Model S. It needed seats for passengers, a battery, electric motors, and it needed to go forward and in reverse. Other than that the possibilities were limitless.

The Model S wasn't constrained by a traditional engine or drive train. There was no existing manufacturing infrastructure that needed to be designed around. In reality, the only real reason the Model S needed to look anything like a traditional combustion vehicle would be to ease the minds of consumers looking to buy one.

That's why it's no surprise that Tesla has been able to build an electric vehicle that can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.2 seconds, seats seven people, gets 265 miles in range, was Motor Trend's "Car of the Year", and was just rated the safest vehicle that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has ever tested.

Source: Wikimedia.

The safety features may surprise some but a quick look at the Model S's features show that the car was built to have the performance of a Porsche 911 with the safety of a Volvo. For example, Tesla was able to design the battery packs at the base of the car to allow a super-low center of gravity and into the frame to make the car more rigid. This kind of innovation would be almost unthinkable to do in a traditional car.

Just the beginning
The Model X will be similarly transformational in rethinking the SUV or crossover. The clean slate has again allowed designers to lower the center of gravity to prevent tipping, which is a common safety problem with most SUVs. Falcon wing doors are another innovation that solves a space and access problem that most manufactures have overlooked for years.

Source: Wikimedia

Entering the vehicle market without the normal constraints and biases that bog down traditional manufacturers has helped Tesla become a wild success in the car market. I just wonder what that freedom will allow them to cook up next?

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Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 7:22 PM, thegreentreefrog wrote:

    Tesla has taken the real joy out of driving! America's love affair with the automobile is about FREEDOM , Freedom to go places see and do things anytime any where, Tesla has but a 300 mile restriction on that, not a lot of FUN! Be home by dark to recharge dear. Great for senior citizens

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 7:23 PM, thegreentreefrog wrote:

    Tesla S, Weighs 4,741 LB The Electric PIG!

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 8:07 PM, tigerade wrote:

    Green Tree,

    When the Tesla Supercharger network is finished, Tesla drivers will be able to drive across the country for free with the network. Compare that with the hundreds/thousands of dollars you'd spend on gasoline for a nationwide trip.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 8:08 PM, tigerade wrote:

    Who cares how much it weighs? It takes off like a jet

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 8:35 PM, sonofTesla wrote:

    To the 2 uninformed persons commenting above...It's called the super charger network and it's coming to a town near you soon. Very soon every gas station/grocery store will have charging stations running on solar power (probably installed by Solar City)

    This transition will happen much faster than anyone realizes. In fact, it has already begun. Elon Musk is one of the smartest people alive (if not THE smartest) and to doubt him or anything he can and will accomplish would not be wise.

    Nikola Tesla new this day would come over a century ago, the day when the internal combustion engine was replaced by an electrically powered motor. In his words, "Electricity is everywhere and in unlimited quantities and can power the worlds machinery without the need of coal, oil or any other common fuels." Welcome to the future people. Now embrace it or get out of the way, you are slowing down the rest of humanity!

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 9:25 PM, drax7 wrote:

    EV is the future. Tesla has a first mover advantage and the lead is increasing. The market for its products is gigantic. The firm may well disrupt the industry and become a mega cap stock.

    The rest is noise.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 10:15 PM, btc909 wrote:

    Lose the 2 rear facing seats. A 0-60 time in the 7 second range would be just fine. Go on a diet Tesla. Bring that price down. Feed the batteries into capacitors to smooth out the electrical draw from the batteries.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 10:27 PM, Dceckert513 wrote:

    The day a major automobile manufacturer duplicates tesla battery technology and uses their existing massive marketing, distribution and service network should be the day after you sell your tesla stock! Imitators are coming...

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 10:58 PM, Ustauber wrote:

    "Imitators are coming" yes they are, but they

    Would have to pay Tesla big money cause

    Every step they design is also a tone of patents

    That covers.

    Be proud of Tesla, that is one of the greatest

    Start up company like Apple, YouTube , Goggle,

    Amazon and eBay just to mentioned some .

    Just remember when Apple came out with the iPhone , people was amused and often said " I know somebody that has that cool iPhone", now look

    How many iPhones are out there.


  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 11:36 PM, Connelky wrote:

    Unless you just blatantly copy a design, it is not that easy to imitate. Even if you did copy it, the lazy car companies that would take that route would botch it anyway.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 12:47 AM, john2000young wrote:

    Load as many shares as you can.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 1:14 AM, stocksonaut wrote:

    Imitators would come, but who cares. Tesla is now a brand.

    Whenever I see a Tesla on the road, I can't stop myself taking a second look.

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 1:30 AM, TurbulentTime wrote:

    @ thegreentreefrog, "Tesla has taken the real joy out of driving! America's love affair with the automobile is about FREEDOM , Freedom to go places see and do things anytime any where"

    Really, so you mean driving gasoline cars will not hurt our Mother Nature, Ozone Layer, and our civilization, and driving gasoline cars that contribute to pollution problems are the way to gaining more "FREEDOM"?

  • Report this Comment On August 24, 2013, at 2:21 AM, friendofbear wrote:

    When combustion engine cars first came out, they were ridiculed because people would run out of fuel and would have to dispatch someone on a horse. It seemed ridicules considering hay was everywhere. The race now, is to switch to electric before the oil companies destroy all the drinking water, and change their game to selling us drinking water for $4 a gallon.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2013, at 4:28 PM, bobbyo816 wrote:

    I have a couple of Telsa questions.

    1. How long does it really take to recharge the Tesla batteries? At home overnight is one thing, but on a road trip is quite another. Even an old Chevy Corvair can travel from NY to LA much faster than a Tesla with all of the long recharging times.

    2. Just how does a Telsa owner pay for their road use? Today, we pay a gas tax for that at the gas pump.

    3. Just how much does it cost in electric KW dollars to recharge a Tesla vehicle? Electricity isn’t free?

    4. How much energy pollution is created to produce the recharging energy? This is indirect pollution indirectly caused by Tesla.

    5. How much do the replacement batteries cost when it is time to replace them?

    6. How and where will the old worn out batteries be disposed of? How much will that cost?

    7. If Tesla is stock is worth %150 plus than Ford stock is worth $1,600 plus and GM is worth $3,500 pkus.

    8. It appears that Tesla is a vehicle for the rich and famous and a new grown up fad toy. How long will it be before the stock drops like a rock when everyone figures this out; maybe this week?

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2013, at 1:41 PM, rtyre2 wrote:

    7. If Tesla is stock is worth %150 plus than Ford stock is worth $1,600 plus and GM is worth $3,500 pkus.

    That question ruined all credibility for you in your discussion, since when does PRICE PER SHARE have any reflection on the market cap of a company? Tesla is trading so much higher then these companies simply because the VOLUME IS SO MUCH LESS!!!!! Think before you ask :O

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