High CARB Diet

Martin Eberhard, Co-founder of Tesla Motors, May 29, 2007

Last Thursday I participated in a panel at the Future in Review (FiRE) conference in San Diego, Calif. Very cool – I got to meet one of my heroes: iRobot founder Helen Greiner. (My own Master’s thesis at the University of Illinois was in robotics.) Helen took a ride in the Tesla Roadster and came away with a big smile.

But fun as it was, I decided to cut out early and hustle across town to testify at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) hearings on the future of the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Members of the public (including execs from all the big car companies as well as individuals with relevant opinions) were each given strictly-enforced 3-minute slots for testimony.

The whole hearing was "Back to the Future," with both CARB and all the large car companies once again urging continued research into hydrogen fuel cells, but with the dates moved further out and the number of required fuel cell cars on the road reduced by an order of magnitude. Hey, forget fuel cells, how about researching a Mister Fusion instead?

The most amusing testimony for me was from Ballard Power Systems. Unlike the car companies, the Ballard spokesman urged CARB to increase the number of fuel cell cars required, transparently increasing the demand for their own fuel cells…

Also entertaining was when both a CARB board member and the BMW spokesman recommended changing the definition of a large-volume car manufacturer so that BMW would not be forced into a fuel cell program as their California sales surpass 60,000 cars. They were followed by the Honda spokesman who specifically requested that BMW be required to join the fuel cell brotherhood.

I did not originally plan to be at the hearing because of the FiRE conference. I wrote my testimony at the last minute on the back of a copy of Chris Paine’s prepared testimony, with overflow on the back of Alec Brook’s testimony. It’s always risky to use sarcasm in public speaking, but I could not resist. Here is what I said in my 3 minutes:

Good afternoon, Members of the Board.

I am Martin Eberhard, cofounder and CEO of Tesla Motors, based here in California.

Tesla Motors will begin shipping highly-desirable, DOT-compliant electrical cars with well over 200 miles range later this year – perhaps you saw one of our prototypes outside. We have already pre-sold more than 400 cars; 2008 production will easily exceed 1,000 cars, exceeding the worldwide fleet of fuel cell cars.

Additionally, we will deliver Tesla-built battery systems for the newly revived TH!INK City Car this year, with a standing order for many thousand batteries per year.

The Air Resources Board continues to show a bias toward hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and against the less expensive and more efficient battery electric vehicles. This bias is clearly seen in the ARB Independent Expert Panel Report. Tesla Motors believes this bias is not justified by science or the evidence of actual vehicles and infrastructure.

However, we are actually delighted by the way this bias finds implementation in the ZEV mandate. For the results of this mandate is that all of our potential EV competitors – all the big car companies – remain mired in non-productive, deeply-expensive fuel cell programs, keeping them out of the EV marketplace, and indeed out of the serious ZEV marketplace entirely.

Every year spent on fuel cell programs by GM, Ford, Honda, and the rest is another year we at Tesla Motors can build our technological and market lead in the obvious winning technology: battery electric vehicles. We therefore sarcastically and enthusiastically encourage you to maintain the hydrogen bias and keep our competitors in the quagmire.

Meanwhile, we are on schedule to place 15,000 battery electric Tesla vehicles on the road by the end of 2010.

Sarcasm aside, wouldn’t it be nice for our environment if we had a few competitors?