Tesla, ahead of his time

April 14, 2016 | 14:04
“Tesla”. These days is generally associated with car manufacturer Tesla Motors, a relatively young company (founded in 2003) with Elon Musk at the helm. Before this date, Tesla was mainly the name of the Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla, born in 1856 in what is now the Croatian town of Smiljan. And, of course, the SI unit for magnetic flux density, which in 1960 — 17 years after Nikola’s death in 1943 — was named after him.

That Nikola Tesla was a brilliant inventor you will likely know already. Much of the electronics that we are familiar with these days has evolved from his ideas and research. For example, he was the first to demonstrate a radio-controlled boat in 1898 and is also the inventor of the AC motor (patent in 1888).

The engineers from Tesla Motors are > 100 years later effectively continuing in his footsteps when in 2003 they used Tesla's AC motor as the basis for realizing an electric car ,with which they wanted to prove that electric cars can be better than fuel-based cars. The first model from Tesla Motors, the Roadster, was unveiled in 2008 and can shoot from 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, only 0.5 s slower than a McLaren F1 (which has a 6.1 liter V12 with 627 hp). With an operating range of nearly 400 km the Roadster was a great leap forwards for electric cars.

Model S, Model X and recently Model 3 are successors to the Roadster and continue to redraw the boundaries of what is possible. Very few car manufacturers with so few individual models have become so famous. Justified? Everyone will have to judge that for themselves. The technical accomplishments in the latest models are certainly impressive. With the Autopilot, which can steer for you, change lanes and park, you could almost say the a driver's license will be obsolete soon...
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