Posted on July 29, 2015 by Matt Pressman
Although most media attention on Tesla Motors is focused on its CEO Elon Musk, it’s always fantastic to hear Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer, JB Straubel’s outlook on both the company and auto industry as a whole. To that end, we’ve uncovered two videos in recent weeks of JB speaking on lithium-ion battery technology (in general) and Tesla’s overall approach to innovation.
But first... some background. According to JB's bio on Tesla’s website, the story of his career starts at a junkyard in Wisconsin, where, at the age of 14, he discovered a discarded electric golf cart and decided to rebuild it. It began his lifelong fascination with energy work and electric vehicles. Later he built an electric Porsche 944 that held a world electric vehicle (EV) racing record. Prior to Tesla, JB was CTO and co-founder of aerospace firm, Volacom, and worked at Rosen Motors on new hybrid electric vehicle drivetrains. JB is also an accomplished pilot. Needless to say, JB has played a critical role in Tesla’s growth.
This first video (see below) showcases JB speaking at the Intersolar North America Conference. JB discusses lithium-ion battery technology and noted great opportunity for rapid improvement. While electric vehicles continue to be priced a bit high relative to comparable gas-powered vehicles, that gap will close "soon," said Straubel. JB noted that EVs will be more cost-effective to drive than conventional gasoline-powered cars within a decade because of improvements in both energy density and grid-storage technology. You can take a look at Straubel's presentation in the video below from about the 1:55 to 4:43 minute mark.
Next up, JB speaks at the Think 15 conference -- this is a far more in-depth look at JB's views on innovation relative to his work at Tesla Motors. Some interesting takeaways from his talk include Tesla's ability to tap into the controllable charging load of one million cars in its fleet and his view of electric utilities acting as strong allies in the fight against fossil fuels. He also mentions that most of Tesla's R&D is now focused on the upcoming Model 3. And his slides specifically reference "Model 3 Sedan & Crossover" under the "Model 3 Platform" pointing to multiple forthcoming models. Check out the video below where JB starts his talk at about 1 min 44 sec in...
We definitely look forward to seeing (and hearing) more from JB in the coming months as the shift moves from Model X to Tesla Energy, Tesla Gigafactory buildout, and the much-anticipated Model 3.