10 Things You May Not Know About Tesla Motors

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Since the introduction of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, fans of performance and green technology alike have flocked to Tesla Motors’ electric cars. Here a few things you may not know about the pricey, innovative rides.

1. ELON MUSK IS NOT AN ORIGINAL TESLA FOUNDER.


Scott Olson/Getty Images

Although Musk has become synonymous with Tesla Motors as the company’s CEO and product architect, the venture existed before he got involved. Founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning started Tesla in 2003 in an attempt to "solve a real problem": dependence on oil. The pair decided to build what Gigaom called a “beautiful, but expensive ‘aspirational’ vehicle” to improve green cars’ image and ease them into the mainstream. The Tesla team spent three years developing the product and seeking new capital. That quest for a cash infusion kicked into overdrive in 2004 when Tesla hit its first major milestone: a driveable Tesla.

2. BUT HE HAS BEEN WITH THE COMPANY SINCE 2004.

That’s where Musk came in. He led the company’s first investment round in 2004 and chaired the company’s board of directors. He also was the controlling investor, personally funding the majority of Series A capital investment with $7.5 million. As Musk became the face of the increasingly popular Tesla, his relationship with Eberhard soured and eventually sparked a legal battle that was settled out of court.

3. CHOOSING THE TESLA NAME TOOK LONGER THAN YOU MIGHT THINK.


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The company was named in honor of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the Serbian inventor and engineer who developed the first modern alternating current (AC) motor. On an early version of the Tesla Motors website, the company leaders stated: “Without Tesla's vision and brilliance, our car wouldn't be possible.” Co-founder Eberhard selected the name after months of struggling for an idea that his then-girlfriend thought sounded appropriate. When the two went to dinner at the Blue Bayou in Disneyland, he suggested Tesla as the company name. She approved, as did Tarpenning, who immediately secured the domain name TeslaMotors.com. The company incorporated on July 1, 2003.

4. THE BATTERIES MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

There are several electric vehicles (EVs) on the market today, ranging from the Nissan Leaf to the Mercedes Benz B Class—but Tesla won fans over with its unique blend of power (one gets zero to 60 in 3.1 seconds) and range (up to 270 miles per charge, according to the EPA). The reason: Other manufacturers use specialized, large format lithium ion cells. Tesla’s battery pack is made up of thousands of inexpensive commodity cells that are similar to the ones in your laptop, only more refined. There are over a billion of these cells produced a year for all sorts of industries, which means their design and performance is subject to the fierce competitive pressures that are a signature characteristic of the computer and consumer electronics industries.

5. LONG ROAD TRIPS ACROSS THE COUNTRY AREN'T A PROBLEM.

Tesla charging station
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Driving an EV can be convenient, but when it’s time to plug in the car, urban apartment dwellers or those that rely on their EVs for long road trips can’t just slip into their garages to recharge. Tesla has tried to sidestep this problem by strategically placing 1332 stations equipped with more than 10,000 superchargers around the world. The cost of using these stations is incorporated into the purchase price of the car, which is convenient. The company offers a map so travelers can find where to recharge.

6. SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE IS SIMPLE.

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They may not be able to refuel at a gas station, but Tesla owners don’t lose much time to oil changes. Only the tires and wiper blades need regular replacement on a Tesla vehicle. The battery and coolants should be checked periodically, but thanks to the clever braking system—the car slows mostly by reversing the electrical motor instead of applying friction (which also charges the battery)—a Tesla won’t need new brake pads anytime soon, if ever. There’s no oil to change, fan belts, air filters, spark plugs, or other parts needed in traditional cars.

7. ANOTHER DESIGN ADVANTAGE MAKES THE TESLA EXTREMELY SAFE.

The Tesla vehicles are good for more than just the environment; they're also potential lifesavers for drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has consistently given the cars high marks when it comes to safety ratings.

In fact, at one point, the Model S achieved the best safety rating of any car in history. How tough was the Tesla? It actually broke one of the machines used for testing.

“Of note, during validation of Model S roof crush protection at an independent commercial facility, the testing machine failed at just above 4 Gs,” the company reported. “While the exact number is uncertain due to Model S breaking the testing machine, what this means is that at least four additional fully loaded Model S vehicles could be placed on top of an owner's car without the roof caving in.” This strength stems from a solid structure and the Model S’s electric drivetrain and low-mounted battery. These components allowed engineers to leave more “sacrificial space” between passengers and an impact and increase overall rigidity.

8. ONE OF THE MODEL S OPTION PACKAGES IS DOWNRIGHT LUDICROUS.

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Buyers of the top-of-the-line Model S, the P85D, may opt for a battery-and-electronics package called "Ludicrous Mode." The upgrade powers the car from zero to 60 mph in less than 2.3 seconds, zippier than the current figure of 3.1 seconds. The boost comes from a “smart fuse” with its own electronics and a tiny lithium-ion battery. Basically, the mechanism constantly monitors battery output down to the millisecond, allowing the software to run the car’s battery at close to its absolute limit. Price tag: $10,000, plus $3000 for the 90-kWh battery upgrade.

An even speedier option: Tesla's sports car, the Roadster, can make the move from zero to 60 mph in an impressive 1.9 seconds.

9. THE COMPANY HAS ALSO VENTURED INTO SUVS.

Tesla’s mid-size SUV, Model X, is a seven-passenger vehicle with three rows of seats and gullwing-style doors (“falcon doors” in Tesla lingo) that allow plentiful access to rear seats. Cons include limited cargo space and a low-end price tag expected to be at least $70,000.

10. THERE'S AN "EASTER EGG" ON MODEL S.

The Model S has a hidden feature in the diagnostics mode on the center console. Punch in 0-0-7 and the car will make “nautically themed adjustments” that show the car morphing into a sea-worthy shape.

Ninja’s Hot & Cold Brewed System Is the Only Coffee Maker You’ll Ever Need

Amazon
Amazon

Update: The Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System is on sale for $120 ($40 off) for Sam's Club members until May 19.

For people who just want a cup of joe to help them get out the door in the morning, the French presses, Chemexes, Aeropresses, Moka pots, and other specialized devices that coffee aficionados swear by probably seem more overwhelming than appealing. Ditto the fancy cappuccino machines at local cafes. That’s where Ninja’s new Hot & Cold Brewed System comes in: It was created to give coffee addicts a myriad of options with minimal fuss, not to mention minimal equipment. And it makes tea, too!

“Coffeehouses are known for having an endless selection, but current at-home brewers haven't given users the vast variety of choice we thought possible, and certainly not all in one product," Mark Rosenzweig, CEO of SharkNinja, said in a press release. "The Ninja Hot & Cold Brewed System changes the category entirely. This innovative system is more than just a machine you use in the morning; it's your all-day brewing partner.”

The Hot & Cold Brewed System comes with two baskets: one for coffee and one for tea. It knows what you're making to make based on the basket you insert, and the available options for that basket will light up. The machine allows the user to make six different sizes of coffee or tea, from a single cup all the way up to a full 50-ounce (10-cup) carafe.

And of course, as the name suggests, the system can make both hot and iced beverages. For coffee, it has five brew options: classic, rich, over ice, cold brew, and specialty (a concentrated brew for milky drinks like cappuccinos). If you’re making tea, you can choose between hot and cold brews optimized for herbal, black, oolong, white, or green tea.

When you select an over ice or cold brew, the machine automatically doubles the strength of your beverage so it doesn't get overly diluted by the ice cubes in the carafe. Even better, the Ninja can make cold brew in just 10 to 15 minutes, whereas other systems and methods typically take hours. (Hot coffee is brewed at 205°F, while the cold brew is made at 101°F.) And the system has a hot and cold frother that folds into the side so you can make barista-level lattes, too.

These bells and whistles sound impressive on paper, but how do they perform in real life? Ninja sent me Hot & Cold Brewed System to test for myself.

Ease of Use

Though it might look like something developed by NASA, the Hot & Cold Brewed System is designed to easily work with the twist of a dial and the push of a button, and it delivers. From loading in the correct amount of grounds with the system’s “smart scoop” to picking what type of brew you’d like, it’s simple enough to use even while bleary-eyed in the morning. It’s also easy to schedule a delayed brew so you can do the rest of your morning routine while your coffee brews. (Here’s the only drawback I can think of about this machine: When it starts brewing, it’s kind of noisy—loud enough to make my cats jump. It’s not a dealbreaker, but if you live in a small apartment and plan to brew coffee so that it’s ready right when you wake up, it might be something to consider.)

The system even tells you when it needs to be descaled. The “clean” button will light up, at which point you simply fill the water reservoir with descaling solution and water and press the clean button. A countdown lets you know how much longer the clean cycle will last.

Taste and Flavor

I swapped out an old, cheap coffee maker for the Hot & Cold Brewed System, and the difference was immediately noticeable. Whether hot or cold, the coffee made by the H&CBS was a better, smoother cup of joe. That’s due to what Ninja has dubbed Thermal Flavor Extraction automated brewing technology, which, according to a press release, “knows the precise temperatures, correct bloom times, and proper levels of saturation for every possible beverage combination to ensure a great taste every time.”

Whatever tech they use, it works. The coffee I make in this machine is consistently tasty. The rich brew setting works exactly as advertised, too, providing a richer, bolder flavor than the classic brew.

Features and Accessories

One of the best things about the H&CBS is the fact that it cuts down on waste significantly. Unlike other machines, it doesn't require any plastic pods or paper filters. Instead, it comes with two permanent filters, one for coffee and one for tea.

And the cold brew function is a game changer if you prefer iced coffee to hot. Not only does it brew quickly, but it eliminates the messy cleanup that comes with making cold brew yourself.

Typically priced at $230 for the thermal carafe version (or $200 for the glass carafe), the Hot & Cold Brewed System is significantly more expensive than a simpler drip coffee machine. But if you’re a cold brew addict looking to treat yourself, it’s worth it. Consider springing for the slightly more expensive thermal carafe model, which will keep your java hot or cold for hours. (I’ve left ice in it overnight and found cubes the next morning.)

You can get the Hot & Cold Brewed System on Amazon, Walmart, Macy's, Sam's Club, or directly on Ninja’s website starting at $160.

Springer Nature Has Published the First AI-Written Textbook

iStock.com/PhonlamaiPhoto
iStock.com/PhonlamaiPhoto

The first AI-written textbook is here, and its tech-heavy subject is exactly what you might expect from a machine-learning algorithm. As Smithsonian reports, the book, published by Springer Nature, is a 247-page guide titled Lithium-Ion Batteries: A Machine-Generated Summary of Current Research.

While it doesn’t exactly make for light reading, the fact that it was written entirely by Beta Writer—an algorithm designed by researchers in Germany—is a game changer. Sure, AI has dabbled with writing before, helping journalists pen articles and even crafting entire chapters for the Game of Thrones and Harry Potter series. (We highly recommend the riveting tale of Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash.) But this is the first time AI has authored an entire research book, complete with a table of contents, introductions, and linked references.

The information was pulled from Springer Nature’s online database. While the grammar and syntax are a little clunky, the book manages to get the point across. (Here’s one sample sentence: “Respectively, safety issue is apparently challengeable till now even after the first commercialization of lithium-ion battery.”)

With the exception of an introduction to the book that was written by Henning Schoenenberger, Springer Nature's director of product data and metadata, the finished product was left unedited and unpolished. This was done “to highlight the current status and remaining boundaries of machine-generated content,” according to Schoenenberger. The publisher hopes to experiment with AI-powered textbooks on other subjects in the future.

Artificial intelligence has certainly come a long way in recent years, and algorithms have been trained to carry out a number of oddly specific tasks. They can design beer, figure out the ingredients in your meal, find Waldo in a “Where’s Waldo” picture, and remake the music video of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” In one of the more meta developments in tech news, Google’s AI even learned to make its own AI in 2017.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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