Martin Eberhard

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Martin Forest Eberhard
Eberhard in 2006
Born1960 or 1961 (age 62–63)
Alma materUniversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (BS, MS)
Known for

Martin Eberhard (born 1960 or 1961 (age 62–63))[1] is an American inventor, engineer and entrepreneur who co-founded Tesla, Inc. (then Tesla Motors) with Marc Tarpenning in 2003, where Eberhard was its original Chairman and CEO, and served as CEO until late 2007.[2][3][4][5][6] In 2015, he was inducted into the University of Illinois Engineering Hall of Fame.

Early life and education[edit]

Eberhard grew up in Kensington, California, a community in the Berkeley Hills. He received a B.S. in computer engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1982 and an M.S. in electrical engineering from the same school in 1984.[7]


Early career[edit]

Eberhard began his career as an electrical engineer at Wyse Technology,[8] where he designed the WY-30 ASCII computer terminal as his first product. Eberhard co-founded Network Computing Devices in 1987, where he served as chief engineer through its IPO in 1992.[9][10]

In 1996, Eberhard founded NuvoMedia with Marc Tarpenning,[11] where they developed the Rocket eBook, the first e-book with secure internet delivery of content. Eberhard served as chairman and CEO until NuvoMedia’s acquisition by Gemstar in 2000.[9][10]

Tesla Motors[edit]

Eberhard's interest in sports cars, concern about the dependence on oil imports, and global warming led him to think about EV cars as part of the solution. Their development of the second generation of NuvoMedia's ebook reader also had an impact due to their experience in sourcing lithium ion cell technology.[11] Eberhard found out about and attempted to purchase a prototype EV sports car called the AC Propulsion tzero. He provided some financial and technical support in the conversion of the tzero to lithium-ion batteries. Eberhard then tried to convince AC Propulsion founder Alan Cocconi to turn the tzero into a production car.[12][13] When Cocconi declined, Eberhard co-founded (with Marc Tarpenning), and became the first CEO of Tesla Motors, an electric car company in Menlo Park, California in 2003.

Eberhard’s guiding principles were:[14]

1) An electric car should not be a compromise. With the right technology choices, it is possible to build electric cars that are actually better cars than their competition.

2) Battery technology is key to a successful electric car. Lithium ion batteries are not only suitable of automotive use; they are game-changing, making decent driving range a reality.

3) If designed right, electric cars can appeal to even the most serious car enthusiast, as electric drive is capable of seriously outperforming internal combustion engines.

In a now well-known tale, Eberhard and Tarpenning in 2003 gathered consumer data for their nascent company by driving up and down the streets of the wealthy suburb of Palo Alto, California, and peering into driveways to see what kinds of cars the suburbanites owned. What they found tucked between the $2 million homes was Priuses. Many of the driveways contained one luxury car and one Prius, which was the environmental darling of the day. So they’d see a Porsche and a Prius. Or a BMW and a Prius. Or a Lexus and a Prius. Economists have since identified this phenomenon. They call it “conspicuous conservation,” a wrinkle on Thorstein Veblen’s century-old theory of conspicuous consumption. The idea is that some modern consumers purchase products as a way of displaying their green virtue. In 2003, Eberhard and Tarpenning couldn’t have known the term “conspicuous conservation,” but they had the wisdom to understand what they were seeing: Environmentalism had come to the doorstep of the wealthy. Thus, they concluded, they could sell electric cars to the affluent. [15]

Eberhard drives the second of Tesla Motors Founder's Series Roadsters cars, which is the first series of the Tesla Roadster (2008).[16] The Tesla Roadster is a battery electric sportscar with 244 miles (393 km) (EPA) range.

On November 30, 2007, Tesla released a press release titled "Martin Eberhard, Co-founder of Tesla Motors, to Transition to Advisory Board."[17] Fortune magazine reported in December 2007 that chairman Elon Musk had asked Eberhard to leave. Musk stated in an interview that it was not due to ideological differences, but that he did not see a role for Eberhard.[18] On January 7, 2008, the New York Times reported that Tesla Motors issued a statement explaining that the co-founder and former chief executive, Martin Eberhard, "has transitioned from the board of directors and executive management of the company to the advisory board."[19]

Eberhard noted that while he had signed a non-disclosure agreement with Tesla, "so I must, by contract, be a bit careful about how I word things", he was not happy with the transition.[19] In his since-deleted Tesla Founders Blog, Eberhard criticized Tesla layoffs, which he labeled a "stealth bloodbath".[20]

In June 2009, Eberhard brought a lawsuit against Elon Musk for libel, slander, and breach of contract, alleging that Musk pushed him out of the company, publicly disparaged him, and compromised Tesla's financial health.[21] In August 2009, Eberhard dropped the lawsuit for undisclosed reasons. A Tesla spokesperson declined to comment on the change, raising the likelihood of a settlement.[22] In September 2009, Tesla confirmed the settlement, but did not provide further details.[23]

Eberhard confirmed in an interview with CNBC in October 2019 that he is still a shareholder of Tesla, and is still rooting for their success.[24]


In 2010, Eberhard confirmed to Autoblog Green that he was doing work with Volkswagen, but no further details were provided.[25]

inEVit / Seres[edit]

In September 2016, Eberhard founded stealth-mode startup inEVit in a bid to supply major OEMs with electric drivetrains and power storage solutions.[26][27]

SF Motors (now Seres) acquired inEVit in October 2017.[28] Eberhard served as chief innovation officer until leaving in July 2018.[29]


In 2019 Eberhard founded Tiveni, which seeks to make "intelligent EV battery systems."[30]

Personal life[edit]

He is married to Carolyn Eberhard.[31]


  1. ^ Chea, Terence (June 26, 2006). "Silicon Valley Races to Develop Electric Cars". The Los Angeles Times. p. C3. ...Eberhard, 45, who sold his previous company, electronic book maker NuvoMedia, for $187 million in 2000.
  2. ^ Kirsch, Emilie. "Watt it takes with Martin Eberhard". Powerhouse Fund. Retrieved April 5, 2024.
  3. ^ "CNBC Interview with Tesla Founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpanning". CNBC.
  4. ^ Kumparak, Greg. "A brief history of Tesla". TechCrunch. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  5. ^ "The Making Of Tesla: Invention, Betrayal, And The Birth Of The Roadster". Business Insider. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  6. ^ "Tesla Co-Founder Marc Tarpenning Tells Definitive Story Of Company's Beginnings | CleanTechnica". June 23, 2017. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  7. ^ "Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning | American entrepreneurs | Britannica".
  8. ^ Kiermasch, Cornelius M. P. (2010). Tesla Motors – Eine Innovation von Martin Eberhard und Marc Tarpenning zum Durchbruch des Elektroautos? (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: GRIN Verlag. p. 5. ISBN 978-3-640-76942-1.
  9. ^ a b "Designing Media: Martin Eberhard | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum". November 16, 2010. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Baer, Drake. "The Making Of Tesla: Invention, Betrayal, And The Birth Of The Roadster". Business Insider. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  11. ^ a b Fletcher, Seth (2011). Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 60–61. ISBN 978-0-8090-3053-8.
  12. ^ Morris, Charles (April 7, 2014). "Tom Gage on ZEV mandates, Tesla's early days, BMW's EV commitment and V2G tech". Charged Electric Vehicles Magazine. Gage: I had a neighbor named Steve Casner, who had a Toyota RAV4 electric, and I always had an EV in my front yard, so we got to talking. He was working at a company with Martin Eberhard, so he told Martin about me. Martin called me, and he had all these schemes, and I was sort of talking through what the realities were. We were just converting the tzero over to lithium-ion batteries. He got involved with that. He actually put some investor money – a small amount – into AC Propulsion, and we finished the conversion of the tzero to lithium-ion batteries.
  13. ^ Shnayerson, Michael (May 14, 2007). "Quiet Thunder". CondéNet. Musk isn't the one who had the Eureka! moment. That was […] Martin Eberhard. Like anyone else in 2003, the then 43-year-old Eberhard knew that billion-dollar markets had grown almost overnight for laptop computers and cell phones. Rivals were spending huge sums on R&D to pack ever more energy into the lithium-ion batteries that powered those devices. One day Eberhard had a simple thought: Why not put lithium-ion cells into cars? […] Eberhard commissioned a shy, gifted, sometimes difficult California pioneer of electric vehicles named Alan Cocconi to put a pack of lithium-ion batteries into Cocconi's latest electric-vehicle kit car, the T Zero.
  14. ^ "Leader in Residence | Illinois Leadership® Center". Retrieved September 16, 2023.
  15. ^ Murray, Charles. "Why is the middle class largely not buying EVs". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 7, 2023.
  16. ^ "Tesla Motors - press room". November 14, 2006. Archived from the original on November 14, 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. ^ "Tesla Motors - press room". December 13, 2007. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  18. ^ Woody, Todd. "Tesla Motors founder ousted". Fortune - Green Wombat. Archived from the original on January 15, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  19. ^ a b Dealbook (December 4, 2007). "Unhappy Tesla Founder, or Impostor? -". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  20. ^ Niedermeyer, Edward (August 20, 2019). Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. BenBella Books. ISBN 9781948836326. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  21. ^ Eberhard Says 'Uncle' in Tesla Lawsuit Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  22. ^ "Tesla lawsuit dismissed". San Jose Business Journal. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  23. ^ "Electric carmaker Tesla, former CEO settle lawsuit". Reuters. September 21, 2009. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  24. ^ "Tesla's Founders On Elon Musk And The Early Days". YouTube. February 6, 2021.
  25. ^ Abuelsamid, Sam (January 19, 2010). "Confirmed: Tesla Co-Founder Eberhard working with Volkswagen". Retrieved September 24, 2011.
  26. ^ Hall, Gina. "Lesser known Tesla co-founder is now heading up stealthy electric vehicle startup". Silicon Valley Business Journal. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  27. ^ "Tesla's original co-founder Martin Eberhard started a new EV startup called 'InEVit'". May 10, 2017. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  28. ^ Motors, S. F. "SF Motors To Acquire EV Battery Module Startup InEVit, Headed By Industry Pioneer Martin Eberhard". (Press release). Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  29. ^ Walz, Eric. "EV Startup SERES Hires Auto Industry Veteran to Lead its U.S. Operations". FutureCar. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  30. ^ Lambert, Fred (May 29, 2019). "Tesla founder launches new electric car battery startup and there's a twist". Electrek. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  31. ^ Communications, Grainger Engineering Office of Marketing and. "Martin Eberhard". Retrieved November 10, 2021.

External links[edit]