Smart Car of America Forum banner

1 - 20 of 24 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
521 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Great read, may have been posted before but it's the first time i've read it.


Musk tried to accelerate the rollout of the Roadster by hiring Ze’ev Drori, a no-nonsense former Israeli paratrooper and microchip executive, to take over as CEO. While Drori focused on solving the Roadster’s problems, Musk started to think about ways to bring in more income.

One option was to try to ride the electric wave by selling battery packs to the larger manufacturers. The income could keep Tesla alive long enough to eventually compete head-to-head. After all, electric vehicles were going to need batteries, and Musk was convinced that Tesla had the best power packs. Of course, most manufacturers weren’t inclined to make a huge bet on a struggling startup.


Still, Musk tried. In September 2007, he flew to Stuttgart, Germany, and met with a group of Daimler executives, who listened skeptically as Musk told them how great his technology was. They weren’t sold.

But two months later Musk got an email from Herbert Kohler, Daimler’s head of advanced engineering, saying that he and some other Daimler execs would be in California in six weeks and would be willing to look at Tesla’s technology.

It was all Musk needed. He immediately called JB Straubel, Tesla’s CTO.

“We need to make an electric Smart car in six weeks,” Musk said. “Can you do it?”

Straubel pointed out that it would mean he’d have to pull engineers off the Roadster at a time when they were still desperately trying to solve production problems. It was a tough call, but Musk believed that if they could prove themselves to Daimler, they could win a valuable contract. In addition to the much-needed cash, it would validate Tesla in the eyes of the world. They had to try.

Straubel had another question: Where was he supposed to get a regular, gas-powered Smart car to retrofit? At the time, Daimler didn’t sell Smarts in the US.

With a bit of research, he discovered that the cars were sold in Mexico. He made a few calls and located a dealership in Tijuana with stock on hand. He hurriedly decided to send someone to fetch a car. A Tesla engineer suggested a friend who was fluent in Spanish, and, after a quick call, the guy agreed to make the trip south.

Straubel walked over to the finance department. “I need $20,000 in cash in a bag right now,” he said. “We’re sending someone to Tijuana to buy a Smart car.”

The finance person noted that a lot could go wrong with that scenario but got Straubel the money. Three days later, the engineer’s buddy showed up at Tesla headquarters with a brand-new Smart car.

Straubel and his team removed the 83-horsepower gas engine and set to work building a custom battery pack that would fit in the tiny car’s engine compartment. Next, they refashioned a Roadster motor to power it. When they got too tired, they napped underneath a staircase, but the pounding of feet overhead made it hard to stay asleep for long.

Finally, at one o’clock in the morning, five and a half weeks after setting to work, the reengineered Smart was fully assembled. Straubel got in the driver’s seat and switched on the power. He goosed the accelerator and rocketed out of the garage and into the parking lot. When Straubel floored it, the front wheels lifted off the ground and the back tires left marks on the asphalt.

Straubel called Musk and told him the car was ready for the Germans.

The Daimler executives sat down in Tesla’s conference room midmorning on January 16, 2008. Musk walked them through a PowerPoint presentation that explained the advantages of the Roadster’s technology. Kohler wasn’t impressed. He wasn’t here to talk about a flashy, limited-run show car. He wanted to know if Tesla could mass-produce battery packs quickly for the Smart. His frosty demeanor indicated that, in his opinion, it didn’t seem likely.

“We’ve actually got something to show you,” Musk said and asked the Daimler execs to follow him.

Kohler spotted the shiny new Smart sitting in the middle of the garage and didn’t smile. It might have seemed like a gimmick at first—Musk managed to get a Smart into the US. Big deal.

“It’s electric,” Musk said.

“What do you mean?” Kohler asked.

“We put in a Tesla battery and motor.”

Kohler examined the car. Straubel had been careful not to alter its shape or interior, so it was impossible to tell that it had been modified.

Kohler got behind the wheel and Musk hopped in the passenger seat. When the German stepped on the accelerator, the car bolted out of the garage and disappeared. Straubel waited nervously with the other Daimler executives. After 15 minutes, the Smart tore back into the garage. Straubel noticed that the normally taciturn Kohler was trying hard not to smile.

“Let’s explore a partnership,” Kohler told Musk.

How Elon Musk Turned Tesla Into the Car Company of the Future | Wired Magazine | Wired.com


All hail Elon
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,536 Posts
Fairly certain the Tesla battery was in the Gen II ED, not the Gen I. The Tesla battery was the main reason the Gen II ED was so expensive.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,295 Posts
It says Daimler bought 1,000 batteries for $40 million. I wonder where they used all of those.
You have to remember, only 250 of them came to the US. The Gen II's were also leased in GB, Germany, France, and Italy. Probably a few other countries as well. 1000 packs isn't very many. Especially considering they needed to keep a few in reserve for replacements and spares.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
673 Posts
Too funny!

Straubel walked over to the finance department. “I need $20,000 in cash in a bag right now,” he said. “We’re sending someone to Tijuana to buy a Smart car.”
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
28,243 Posts
Musk is the man - sort of the Howard Hughes of today. He's not really interested in what people say can't be done - he just does it. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
491 Posts
Musk is the man - sort of the Howard Hughes of today. He's not really interested in what people say can't be done - he just does it. :)
I wonder if they crossed illegally into USA with the car:D
I don't think you can go to Tijuana and buy a car and bring it into USA like a sombrero (hat).
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
17,350 Posts
Musk is definitely one of my favourite inventors of all time.

Unfortunately, the work on the Phase II smart ED (overall) sucked.

The show car referenced in this article was awesome. It had a custom battery and a Tesla Roadster motor. The thing was probably faster than a hayabusa smart.

However, the car that was actually produced for consumers (1,000 worldwide, 250 of them in the U.S.) was miserable. 0-60 in 22 seconds, top speed pegged at 61, max range lingering in the 50s and 60s, and a price tag of $45,000 if you decided to buy it.

For all the praise I give Tesla, the Tesla powered smart just sucked...That may not be Tesla's fault, but since they were just test mules for Phase III, we'll never know...
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
28,243 Posts
I wonder if they crossed illegally into USA with the car:D
I don't think you can go to Tijuana and buy a car and bring it into USA like a sombrero (hat).
As long as it won't be licensed for the road and is brought in for an engineering project like the one described, no problem. The car would have to be kept off the road until it left the country or was scrapped.

Wonder where it is now? :)
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
7,593 Posts
I don't think you can go to Tijuana and buy a car and bring it into USA like a sombrero (hat).
Correct, neither your nor I could take a large bag of money to Tijuana and come back to the U.S. with a shiny new (not for import) smart.

But then again, we are not Elon Musk who probably would not be caught dead in a sombrero!

Money talks, that other stuff walks . . .
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
28,243 Posts
For all the praise I give Tesla, the Tesla powered smart just sucked...
Tesla just supplied the batteries for the Gen II EV - the rest of it was down to smart. Those cars were never meant to be the final production version, they were simply beta test cars IMHO. The Gen III cars are much improved, and the Gen IV (453) versions will be even better. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
832 Posts
Fairly certain the Tesla battery was in the Gen II ED, not the Gen I. The Tesla battery was the main reason the Gen II ED was so expensive.
Yes, Gen I had a ZEBRA battery (Sodium-Nickelchloride) had to be kept at 300 degrees C to work. Gen II with the Tesla battery was quite an improvement...
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
17,350 Posts
Tesla just supplied the batteries for the Gen II EV - the rest of it was down to smart. Those cars were never meant to be the final production version, they were simply beta test cars IMHO. The Gen III cars are much improved, and the Gen IV (453) versions will be even better. :)
Hence why I said "Tesla powered". :wink:

Tesla probably made a good battery and smart made a powertrain that leeched the battery...who knows what really happened. But that battery was extremely expensive and the performance sucked (smart put in a really weak motor), no doubt about that! :) :eek:
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
28,243 Posts
Which was why it was never intended for mass production. Test car... Testing to improve the next version. :)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
491 Posts
I was told by some electric engineers that designing an EV is not that big of a deal. It's much easier than designing/making an ICE car; they think that the problem is with the batteries being so expensive. $40K for a battery is not acceptable at all. Even at $10K per battery still is very hard to put a car on the market for consumers.

The govt or some rich guy would have to shovel billions of dollars to market a more acceptable/affordable battery. Perhaps a world wide leasing program that would put the battery to the reach of any consumer as with natural propane gas where the consumer just exchanges his/her container at a very affordable price.
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
17,350 Posts
I bet if Tesla tried again now, they could probably double the ED's range without making it cost much more. :)

The funnier part is that so few of the Phase II cars were leased that dealers just tried offloading them for a few grand under sticker. The cheapest one I saw was a cabriolet going for $41,000.

Of course, they were just test mules for the new cars, but still just as funny.
 

·
Moderator
Joined
·
17,350 Posts
It's sad how many good ideas end up going to waste...The Aptera was another cool one...

Last I heard, some Chinese company bough them out. That was two years ago.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
515 Posts
So it was the Model ED after all

ED = Elon + Damlier

funny how it all adds up after knowing more of the smarts history

That first Smart must have been unreal with a roadster motor and battery pack

nice to know my car has lots of tesla roots
 
1 - 20 of 24 Posts
Top