Earlier today Forbes released its updated list of most influential young people in business – 40 Under 40 – and Tesla’s Chief Technology Officer and co-founder JB Straubel (39) took the second position.
The CTO is only outdone (according to Forbes) by Adam Neumann, the co-founder and CEO of WeWork, a provider of shared workspace and services to entrepreneurs and startups.
In his short profile, Forbes credits Straubel for being the person who convinced Elon Musk to invest in Tesla. Expand Expanding Close
Great interview, not much new however if you follow Tesla and its CTO into the energy industry. Some interesting bits:
Why did Tesla act differently? For a start, it does not think of itself as a carmaker. “I see us more as an energy-innovation company,” says Jeffrey “JB” Straubel, the firm’s chief technology officer, and one of the co-founders of Tesla, along with Elon Musk, the chief executive. “If we can reduce energy-storage prices, it’s the most important thing we can do to make electric vehicles more prevalent,” says Mr Straubel. “Add in renewable power and I have a direct line of sight towards an entire economy that doesn’t need fossil fuels and doesn’t need to pay more to do it.”…
Mr Straubel met Mr Musk, a freshly minted multimillionaire from the sale of his PayPal digital-payments company to eBay. “One lunch was the beginning of what eventually became Tesla,” says Mr Straubel. “We spent most of the meal talking about electric aeroplanes. But as we were wrapping up, I said I was working on a fun crazy project with cars, trying to build a lithium-ion battery pack that could last 1,000 miles.”…
“Most other companies do not believe that battery volume will grow as fast as it’s going to,” Mr Straubel counters. “They don’t understand the tight linkage between cost and volume. We’re at this crossing-point where a small reduction in cost is going to result in a ridiculously big increase in volume, because the auto industry is so big.”…
“No one wishes we could come up with a technology that makes today’s chemistry obsolete more than me,” says Mr Straubel. “We could sell more cars at a lower price. But we’re not waiting.”
“It’s not going to happen in a year from now. It’s going to be hard. But I think we can get down to five to 10 minutes,” Straubel said in an interview with MIT Technology Review. He noted that the current superchargers, which deliver 120 kilowatts of electricity, “seemed pretty crazy even 10 years ago.” Conventional public charging stations deliver well under 10 kilowatts.
Tesla has already reduced its Supercharger times in half going from 40 minutes to 20 minutes for a half charge. A few more ‘half times over the next few years and we’ll be there. One of the barriers of this type of charging is heat so this might involve external or internal cooling for battery charging.
One challenge of fast charging is that delivering power to a battery very rapidly can cause it to overheat. To avoid damaging the battery, the outside charger needs to communicate with the electronics that monitor the state of the batteries, including their voltage and temperature, and quickly adjust charging rates accordingly. “To do that kind of charging, everything has to be designed and working in perfect synchrony,” Straubel says.
Achieving five-minute charges will require not only further improving the charging system, but also improving the interface with the electrical grid. As it is, only some places on the grid can handle 120-kilowatt charging. Drawing large amounts of power from the grid also incurs demand charges from the utility, increasing the cost of the system.
But Straubel says that Tesla plans to get around these problems by equipping supercharging stations with solar panels and batteries.