The problem of flammability
Among other things, the engineers considered how the heat dissipates and what the voltage flow looks like when you connect 70 batteries with super glue to a block.
Ten of these blocks were then interconnected to test different types of cooling with air or water.
A mobile prototype
When a working battery pack was developed, the engineers extended the Elise body by 12 centimeters and lifted the batteries with a crane to the rear of the car where the engine was. The work on the 18 started seriously. October 2004.
And already on the 25. January 2005, so remarkably soon, 18 people had completed a completely new car that could even drive around.
On that day, Tesla had a Board meeting, and Musk tried the car out right away. He was content enough to make more money available: when Tesla raised another 13 million dollars in capital, he was carrying 9 million dollars. The plan now was to deliver the roadster beginning 2006 to customers.
The great weakness
A few months later, the second copy was ready and the Tesla engineers decided that it was time to deal with a potentially devastating weakness in their vehicle.
On the 4. On July 2005 they celebrated Independence Day at Eberhard in Woodside and concluded that this moment was as good as any other for trying out what happens when the Roadster's batteries catch fire.
The big explosion
Someone glued 20 of the batteries together, shoved a heating wire into the bundle, and turned on the power. "It went off like New Year's Eve fireworks," reports Lyons. Instead of 20 batteries, the Roadster should have almost 7000 and the thought of an explosion of this magnitude made engineers very concerned.
One of the advantages of electric cars should be that they would put an end to a flammable liquid in the tank and constant explosions in the engine. That rich people would pay a lot of money for an even more dangerous solution, however, seemed unlikely.
What happened if
An early nightmare for the Tesla team was that a rich and famous person might get caught in a fire started by their car. “It was one of those 'oh shit' moments. We were really disenchanted, ”says Lyons.
Tesla set up a six-person working group to take care of the battery problem. Their members were freed from all other tasks and received money for experiments. Soon there were the first explosions in the Tesla headquarters, filmed in slow motion by the engineers.
They blew up thousands of batteries
When reason came back, these investigations were transferred to a fire department-operated blast area behind a substation. With every explosion, Tesla employees learned more about the inside of the batteries. They devised methods of arranging them so that fires do not spread from one battery to the next, and devised more tricks to prevent explosions.
Thousands of batteries were blown up, but it was worth the effort. Of course, it was still at an early stage, but Tesla was about to invent a battery technology that would Company stand out from the competition for years to become one of its major competitive advantages.
A unique style
The early success with the two prototypes and the technical breakthroughs in the batteries and other components strengthen Tesla's self-confidence. It was time to put a stamp on the car.
"In the beginning we only wanted to change as much as was absolutely necessary to give the car a different style than the Lotus," reports Tarpenning. “At some point, however, Elon and the rest of the board said, 'You only have one chance. The car has to please the customers and the Lotus is simply not enough for that.
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German edition: ISBN 9783965964044
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