Look Back: Tesla Engineer JB Straubel Boosts EV Range To New Heights

The passion and intelligence that makes JB Straubel one of the most influential engineers in the world was the reason he won the 2009 Design News Engineer of the Year Award and is what has continued his efforts to bring growth in US manufacturing for EVs,

Tesla Inc. Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel, who will serve as keynote speaker at the upcoming Advanced Design & Manufacturing show in Cleveland on March 29, won the Design News Engineer of the Year Award in 2009.

Our coverage of Straubel at that time was lost due to a technical issue with the Design News website. Below, we share that 2009 feature, describing how Straubel spearheaded the design of the all-electric Tesla Roadster.

In it, you'll see the passion and intelligence that makes Straubel one of the most influential  engineers in the world, and what gave him a spot on Design News recent list," 15 Engineers Who Are Transforming the Auto Industry ."

To attend Straubel's keynote entitled " Growth in US Manufacturing for EVs, Batteries and Solar ," register for the Advanced Design & Manufacturing conference here.


2009 Feature:

Tesla Engineer Boosts EV Range To New Heights

When Carol Straubel’s 14-year-old son was re-building an old electric golf cart in 1989, she found herself driving the boy from town to town in Wisconsin, sometimes as far as 50 miles, in search of batteries, tires and electric motors.

“He was passionate about it,” Straubel recalls. “He wrote to the manufacturers for information. He worked on it every day, all day long, all evening long, until he got it to run.”

What Straubel didn’t know back then was that her son, “JB” Straubel, would still be on a motor-and-battery mission 20 years later. JB Straubel, now the chief technical officer of Tesla Motors Inc. , is a candidate for the 2009 Design News’ Engineer of the Year award , largely because he’s as obsessed with electric vehicles today as he was when he and his mother were crisscrossing Wisconsin in search of golf cart parts in 1989.

The difference, though, is that the 2009 version of JB Straubel is now applying that same fire and passion to a mission that’s meaningful not just to him, but also to the global auto industry and to the nation, as well.

“It really feels like we’re trying to change the world,” says JB Straubel (JB stands for Jeffrey Brian; he prefers not to punctuate it) of his company’s task. “There’s a real David and Goliath feel to it.”

JB Straubel, chief technology of Tesla Motors, set out to change public perceptions of EVs. (Source: Tesla Inc.)

If the task of changing the world is daunting, however, that hasn’t stopped Straubel and his fellow engineers at Tesla. Before rolling out the prototype Tesla Roadster in 2006, the company’s engineering staff set their sites on an incredibly ambitious 250-mile battery-only range for the vehicle, and then came within a hair of meeting it. The Roadster’s final, EPA-verfied, 244-mile range was approximately three times that of the now infamous General Motors EV1 , which hit the streets a decade earlier. 

That stunning achievement not only turned heads among such competitors as General Motors, it set the stage for the emergence of electric vehicles in a way that hadn’t been expected yet by the automotive community. At the

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