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Tesla loses a founder (and a piece of his soul)

On Wednesday, when Tesla announced it had delivered 95,356 cars in the last quarter and another net loss, it also revealed that Straubel will release its CTO position and move away from the daily grind to become a company advisor.

For many years Tesla viewers, it is a surprising change. Straubel, 43, represents, along with Elon Musk, the soul of the automaker – a true belief in electric cars and how they could transform the world.

He has been the quiet, ground-based complement to Musk's drama-filled, visionary persona.

JB Straubel glues batteries on a case in his backyard, 2004. Tesla

"It's been a wonderful time, and I really love the mission and this personal connection and ownership of the whole company," Straubel said. in a telephone interview.

"Tesla has evolved. What we need now is a focus on sales, delivery and production. I've helped with that over the last few years, but that's not what I'm best at. It's people in the world who are better off to this and like it more. "

Tesla has become such a polarizing phenomenon.

Some see it as the obvious future of transport and for others, an elaborate bluff.

But before all this, during the company's first days, Straubel and a team of co-engineers struggled to produce a single car for a market that insisted no-one wanted an electric vehicle anyway.

The fight continued throughout the financial crisis in 2008, when decent car manufacturers almost went out of business and Tesla had to plead with Uncle Sam for a loan in the midst of the subsequent economic chaos to keep the mercury dream alive.

A decade later, hundreds of thousands of cars are pumping, which are among the safest, fastest, most advanced and desirable vehicles ever made. [19659002] Most of the automotive industry is now trying to emulate it and discover that it's not easy to do.

Among the Tesla entrepreneurs, Straubel was the only one who had thrown all his life force behind the idea that cars had to be more environmentally friendly.

While at Stanford University, he created a customized main goal called energy systems and engineering to learn how to better control electricity and electronics through software.

As I wrote in my cinema graphics of Musk, "There was no movement of pure technology at this time, but there were companies dipping with new uses for solar and electric vehicles.

Straubel ended up hunting These start-ups, hanging out in their garages and pestering the engineers. "He also worked on vehicles for Stanford's solar car team and then bought a Porsche garbage for $ 1600 and converted it into an electric car.

After graduation, Straubel took a job at Rosen Motors, one of the first manufacturers of a hybrid car, and made online advice on the page to help pay bills.

Around 2002, Straubel was convinced that lithium ion batteries used in laptops and other consumer electronics had improved to the point that someone could build a car based on technology.

He began doing the rounds of Silicon Valley and tried to convince his old friends at Stanford or anyone else who would listen to help bring this vehicle to life.

Elon Musks cra's idea struck a chord. AP

No bites, before fate intervened and led Straubel to Musk in 2003, when they met for lunch in Los Angeles near the headquarters of Musk's rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp..

The one crazy idea struck an instant chord with Musk, who had been thinking of electric vehicles for years. While Musk had largely focused on using ultra-capacitors for the vehicles, he was thrilled and surprised to hear how much lithium-ion battery technology had emerged.

"Everyone else had told me I was nut, but Elon loved the idea. He said, Yeah, I'll give you some money." Musk promised Straubel $ 10,000 of the $ 100,000 he was looking for.

On the spot, Musk and Straubel formed a kinship.

At about the same time, two other entrepreneurs, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, were having similar disclosures about what electric vehicles could be.

Eventually, all four men would join together to get Tesla to. (Eberhard and Tarpenning would leave by 2008 when disputes arose as to how the company had been ruled and as Musk exercised more control.)

Tesla would never have achieved everything that Musk had not been willing to commit his money , drive and grand vision for the company.

Similarly, Straubel's knowledge of electric vehicles and his almost religious zeal helped them to lead Tesla in its early days and held the company together for some of the most difficult times.

The & # 39; regarding the two constants who have promoted Tesla's journey.

Straubel's departure, more than the arrival of a new model of car or business merger, marks a new era for Tesla and for him.

"It's been a very tough decision because I feel like I'm releasing many people," Straubel said.

"But you also have to live life. I love to invent and create and build things and are at peace to know about myself and want to reorganize my life. [19659002] I slightly decompress and have a little break but I want more to say in a few weeks. "

Straubel made a covenant with Musk – not unlike those made by a handful of early SpaceX employees – which has led to tremendous achievements.

Musk asks the world the closest to him, both in terms of their time and ability, and also their willingness to endure his intense, often fighting ways.

Some people are up for challenge. Many are not. Straubel was the absolute one. He has the scars and the enormous riches to prove it.

He has harvested about $ 30 million ($ 43 million) from stock sales only over the past nine months. He has also seen his once-thought ideas become real in the most brilliant ways, which is the ultimate benefit of working with Musk and all he helps to make it possible.

The real basic story of Tesla comes with so much enmity and luggage that it could never be one of the cleanly cut two-person-in-one garage Silicon Valley stories.

And Musk has become a greater than life figure at a level that does not allow all that much to shine on those around him.

But Straubel was very much Woz to Musks Jobs, and so many of the big parts of Tesla came from the spirit of the kid playing with batteries in his garden.

Bloomberg [19659043]
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