John has been driving for many years. At first, he was a do-it-yourselfer. He once rebuilt his Chevy engine. Now he lets others fix his car.
My First Sighting of a Model X
It was on a cold day in December 2017. I was in the mall when I heard music and saw a Tesla X being shown on the main shopping corridor. I stopped and looked in amazement. This vehicle was "dancing" along with the music. Its falcon-winged rear doors along with the trunk lid and the frunk (aka "front trunk) lid plus its two front doors were opening and closing in a symphony of movement along with the music.
I stopped strolling and joined the crowd of onlookers. The car was an eye-catching red and really pleasing to look at. It had apparently been "programmed" to dance with the music. After the music stopped, the doors remained open for the onlookers to inspect more closely.
What struck me at first was the frunk with more storage space under the "hood" where the motor is usually located in a car with an internal combustion engine.
I looked inside and saw a quite extraordinary control panel. The passenger compartment looked roomy and comfortable. The front windshield extended upward and sideward into one's peripheral vision. The view while driving must be impressive.
As I walked around the car several times I noticed the "T" logo and the brand name "Tesla" displayed on signs next to the vehicle. I wondered where the name Tesla came from and what meaning was associated with the "T" logo. I knew from the news that Tesla was an innovative all-electric car that was transforming the auto industry. But I did not know the full story.
I was not shopping for a car so I left the Tesla to the gawking onlookers and continued on with my shopping.
But the image of that Tesla stuck in my mind. I wanted to know more. As time went on, I learned more and more about electric vehicles and Tesla.
Here is what I learned.
Who Founded Tesla Motors?
I was surprised to learn that it was not Elon Musk who founded Tesla, but rather it was Martin Eberhard and Marck Tarpenning. I also did not realize that Tesla was founded as early as 2003.
When GM recalled all its EV1 electric cars and then destroyed them in 2003, Eberhard and Tarpenning saw nothing but vision and opportunity. They had sufficient funds to start the company and later turned to the financial markets.
It was then, in 2004, that Musk became involved with Tesla, leading the financing for the company and being appointed to the Board of Directors.
But due credit should go to Musk, for it was he who led the financing and steered the company from engineering to production and provided the vision for the company to get where it is today.
Why Name the Company Tesla?
The name Tesla might ring a bell with some of you. But not me. Unless you are an engineer, scientist or historian, the name Tesla might just as well be an acronym.
Everybody knows the name Thomas Edison. It was his invention of a DC (direct current) electrical grid that ultimately brought power to the country. Wrong! It was Nikola Tesla's invention of an AC (alternating circuit) electrical grid that ultimately powered the nation. It was Tesla's AC grid that allowed transmission of power over long distances. Tesla was an unusually gifted early inventor of many electrical devices.
Nikola Tesla invented the AC induction motor.
Any Tesla enthusiast knows full well that the name originally chosen for what was then Tesla Motors was based on a motor design credited to Nikola Tesla, who lived in the 19th century. Virtually every car that Tesla has produced, from the Roadster to the Model S to the Model X, has been powered by a version of that venerable 3-phase AC induction motor.
— Steve Bakker, 11 March 2018
Who was Nikola Tesla?
In 1960, the General Conference for Measures and Weights decided the unit for the physical quantity "magnetic induction" would bear the "Tesla" with the symbol..."T"
— Video "Tesla: The Master of Lightning
What Is it Like to Drive a Tesla?
As I studied the amazing-looking red Tesla X in the Mall, I wondered what it is like to drive a Tesla. Surely driving an electric car is much different than driving a car powered by and an internal combustion engine.
Here are some of the questions in my mind about driving a Tesla:
- How do the doors work?
- How fast does it accelerate?
- How does the control panel work?
- How far can you go on a single charge of Tesla's battery?
- How do you find a Tesla Supercharging station on a road trip?
- How long does it take to fully charge the Tesla's battery?
- What do you do while you wait for the charging to be complete?
- How quiet is the motor?
What about the much-touted autopilot?
- How do you turn it on?
- How well does it work to keep you in the middle of a lane of traffic?
- Which lane is the best lane to drive a Tesla with Autopilot?
- How do you change lanes?
- How well does it adjust your speed to that of the traffic?
- Can the Tesla park itself?
One way to find out is to drive a Tesla yourself. Another is to ride with two guys who drove across America in seven days in a Tesla while they recorded a video as they traveled day by day.
Tesla Road Trip Across America
Final Thoughts at the End of a Road Trip Across America in a Tesla X
This car's ruined me for other cars...
This is the car of the future...
It's the car I want in the future...
I'm glad we got to have a little taste of it...
— Graham Flanagan and Will Wei at the end of their Road Trip Across America in a Tesla X
How Does a Tesla Work?
The more I learned about Tesla, the more I became curious about how Tesla actually works. It's electric -- that I know. But how does that work? Where are the electric motors? Where is the battery? Where are the moving parts in Tesla's drivetrain?
The best way I found to answer these questions is to watch the about video "How Does an Electric Car Work | Tesla Model S." It is an excellent animated video with cut-a-way views of the inside of a working Tesla. the Tesla Model depicted is a model S, not Most X which is the subject of this Hub; nevertheless, but the Model S shows the principles of a working electric Tesla car very well.
What I Learned About Tesla and Model X
Many times I have strolled the corridor in The Mall where the Tesla Model X was once displayed. It is of course no longer there.
But my personal inspection of it at that time and my followup research have made me keenly aware of the importance of this vehicle to the future of automobile travel in the U.S. and around the world.
As Tesla continues to improve, driving will be safer. There will be fewer auto emissions and cleaner air. Driving should be more fun and more relaxing.
Last but not least is the WOW factor—not only WOW about the eye-catching design and features of Tesla, but WOW about the transformation of auto engineering.
John Dove (author) on March 13, 2020:
Many thanks for checking in.
Jack, I agree with your skepticism about self-driving cars. Perhaps as you say that capability will be used initially only sparingly, as an assist to drivers. I can say with certainty that I am seeing more Teslas on the road than ever before. Tesla is gaining millions of miles of data and experience to fine tune their systems. Who would have thought 20 years ago that electric vehicles would today be in the ascendancy.
Ken, your thoughts on Elon Musk are right on. He is undoubably the most "disruptive" leader of the modern era -- and he gets things done.
All the best,
JC Scull on March 10, 2020:
Good article. Thanks for sharing.
Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on January 18, 2020:
Excellent article on both Tesla the car and the inventor. He is one of my hero. As regard to the future of EV, that is less certain. There will be niche markets where it is ideal but it would not replace the gas powered cars anytime soon. In addition, the self driving feature at $6K option is not ready for prime time. In my opinion, self driving autonomous car is 30 years away if ever. The reason is simple. It cannot deal with a driving environment that includes humans behind the wheel.
In order to get fully autonomous, all vehicles would have to adopt the same technology. This is just unrealistic.
Self driving will be able to assist drivers in most situations and especially truck drivers on long hauls. However, for the other 10-20% of the time a human is still much better in dealing with those situations...such as bad weather...and crowded city streets...with pedestrians and bicyclists...
Ken Burgess from Florida on December 12, 2019:
Now this is good writing, and an excellent hub. I like how you reeled in interest with the initial storytelling of first seeing a Tesla, and redirecting from there.
I often wonder if Elon Musk is more Edison than Tesla, he has a great ability to envision the future and set out to make that vision a reality.
His desire to focus humanity back on reaching Mars, to create a home power system that combines solar panels, batteries, and vehicle freeing people from dependence on oil, gas, power companies has also garnered him a lot of enemies.
He is on the verge of disrupting not just the auto industry, but the oil and energy industries as well. I have seen his home power systems, they make being tied to the grid almost unnecessary, with outside power being nothing more than an emergency back-up.
But most of these inventions are not his own, unlike Tesla he is not inventing from nothing new advances, he is taking what is already there and improving on it.
He has done the same with the space industry, his Space X efforts have revolutionized how rockets are built, and recycled.