You’re here It is so called because its creators wanted to pay homage to Nikola Tesla, but this duo was not formed by Elon Musk: the tycoon was one of the first three employees and, later, he acquired the status of co-founder. The founders of the brand were Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, inspired by an unbeatable electric two-seater in all the “drag races” of the time.
This would be one of the definitions with which we could describe the model made by Alternating Current Drive, a two-seater called Zero. Let’s do some introductions before going any further: AC Propulsion was founded in 1992 by Alan Cocconi, a former General Motors engineering consultant.
He designed, developed and manufactured a lightweight fiberglass electric car called the Tzero. Its electric motor, powered by 28 lead-acid batteries, transmitted all its power to the rear wheels and traveling at an average of 95 km/h, it had a range of 160 kilometres. It had a built-in charger, which allowed it to be plugged into a normal outlet, and an assistant that could provide 20 kW of charging on the go.
was able to go from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds and it had a spartan aesthetic in which its leather-wrapped carbon fiber sports seats stood out. By the way, there was heating but no air conditioning. Because? The windows can be removed and stored in the trunk, their makers claimed.
The terror of the “drag race”
How did the paths of Tzero and Martin Eberhard cross? For the fame of the first: he began to beat one rival after another in the 200 meter (eighth mile) drag race held over a weekend in Silicon Valley (California) to showcase the vehicle entrepreneurs and future investors. He is said to have beaten a Ferrari F355 and a Chevrolet Corvette C5. A Porsche 911 Carrera 4 was able to beat him because the potential Swedish investor who took control of the Tzero forgot to release the handbrake: a day later he emerged victorious in the rematch.
This exhibition caught the attention of a young Californian businessman named Martin Eberhard: he saw in this car the opportunity to create a vehicle harnessing the power of electricity to sell it around the world. After visiting AC Propulsion’s headquarters and seeing firsthand the three Tzeros the company had built, he began designing his plan: On July 1, 2003, with Marc Tarpenning, they created Tesla Motors.
The future of Tesla and AC Propulsion
Martin and Marc were clear that Tesla Motors’ first model would be a Tzero-based electric sports car. They borrowed one of three units to equip it with its lithium-ion battery and use it as a test mule, and even licensed AC Propulsion’s patented powertrain. However, they saw that it didn’t fit their plans and went with an in-house design.
As Tesla continued to grow, AC Propulsion became an OEM, manufacturing products that it later purchased from another company and retailed under its own brand, which it continues to do today. And the Tzero? His story ends here: one of the units remains with the company, another is privately owned, and the third burned down in 2017.