Tesla CTO talks Model S, batteries and in-car Linux

The all-electric car maker's technology chief sees longer driving range and less expensive models in the future

By , IDG News Service |  IT Management, electric cars, Linux

JBS: Certainly, our customers are a little more technically savvy. They are early adopters at some level. Still, 300 miles gives you more freedom and utility than any other EV today, and particularly with this car, we are rolling out a network of what we call superchargers that can refuel the car in about 30 to 45 minutes. That's something we are pioneering here in California so customers can drive 500, 600, even 1,000 miles a day if they want, stopping only for 20 to 30 minutes in the middle for a quick recharge.

IDGNS: When you talk about your customers being early adopters, where would you like the company to go? Is it always going to be a luxury car maker, or are you hoping to become a mass-market car maker at one stage?

JBS: I think the Model S is really a transition product. The Roadster was really for die-hard fans and people who either loved performance or technology. The Model S is bridging that gap. We see customers with Model S that are much more mainstream. Tesla's goal is to advance the boundaries of electric vehicle technology and eventually drive a revolution in the whole industry. So we would love to see every car on the road being electric as soon as possible. We won't build all of those, but we definitely want to change the mindset and people's barriers about what they think is possible. I think Tesla will remain a brand where we focus on performance and fun driving but we are also driving down the price of our vehicles with each successive generation. So the Model S is about half the price of the Roadster and we are already working on our third-generation platform beyond this, which will be much cheaper still, maybe about $30,000.

IDGNS: I'd like to ask you a couple of technology questions. When you look at all the areas of the car, what are the one or two areas that you are putting your most investment into, or the areas that need the biggest push at the moment?

JBS: Batteries are still near the top of that list. It's still one of the most important areas in the vehicle. Also, software is very critical to us, and we invest a lot of effort and engineering into very good software. That's part of what gives the car its very smooth feel, and when you drive it, the accelerator pedal responds very quickly and smoothly. Also having very high torque: That's part of the control of the motor. Those are a couple of the key areas; I would say batteries and software are two of the big ones. Also aluminum structures, very lightweight vehicles. This is one of the lightest weight chassis of any car on the market.

IDGNS: Tell me about the software in the car.

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