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Tesla co-founder Straubel steps down as CTO

Ohm brew: Outgoing Tesla Motors co-founder and CTO converted cars and bicycles to run on electricity long before he joined the Californian EV specialist.

EV technology mastermind JB Straubel switches from Tesla CTO role to senior advisor

31 Jul 2019

TESLA Motors co-founder JB Straubel has stepped down as chief technology officer of the Californian electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer to become a senior advisor and will be succeeded by vice president of technology Drew Bagnio.


Mr Straubel joined Tesla in 2004, about a month before Elon Musk, who became CEO in 2008. Mr Bagnio joined in 2006.


The reshuffle of Tesla’s top brass was announced during the firm’s quarterly financial report conference call, in which it recorded a net loss of $US408 million ($A591.3m).


“I'd like to thank JB for his fundamental role in creating and building Tesla. Thank you, JB,” said Mr Musk during the call. “If we hadn't had lunch in 2003, Tesla wouldn't exist.”


Mr Straubel took the opportunity to reassure Tesla investors that he was “not disappearing” from the company and was “really happy” with the teams, projects and processes that had been built to ease the handover to Mr Bagnio.


“I'm excited to stay involved in some of our core technologies and all that help where I can. Just in less of an operational, obviously less – not an executive type role,” he said.


“I just want to make sure that people understand that this is not some lack of confidence in the company or the team or anything like that. I love the team. I love the company and I always will.


“So, Drew and I have worked closely together for many, many years, and I have total confidence in Drew, and I'm not going anywhere if there's anything I need to do to be helpful to Drew or the whole team or any of the ongoing projects.”


Tesla describes Mr Straubel’s role as encompassing “technical direction and engineering design including battery technology, power electronics, motors, software, firmware and controls”.


“He also has responsibility for new technology evaluation, R&D and technical diligence review of key vendors.”


The company credits Mr Straubel with launching its battery-based energy storage systems, the Supercharger network of fast EV chargers and the Gigafactory battery production concept that is now being rolled out in China, with plans underway for a European plant.


Mr Straubel’s personal website describes his “long personal passion for electric vehicles” and the Porsche 944 he converted to electric drive, which went on to hold a world EV racing record. He also created electric bicycles and worked on a ‘hybrid trailer system’ providing range extension for EVs via additional batteries or a generator.


Before moving to Tesla, Mr Straubel held a similar role at Volacom, a start-up that was developing a “specialised high-altitude aircraft platform using a novel hydrogen-powered electric power plant”. Some of this technology ended up being licensed to Boeing.


Prior to that, he helped invent a hybrid vehicle drivetrain based around a micro turbine and flywheel – technologies that were separately adopted by Capstone Turbing and Pentadyne Power respectively.

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