Electric car upstart Tesla gathered reporters at a Santa Monica Airport hangar on a July afternoon in 2006 to unveil its battery-powered roadster, an audacious, $100,000 two-seater for which few automotive experts saw much hope of success. The company’s brash, tech-savvy CEO, Martin Eberhard, declared that Silicon Valley ingenuity would teach Detroit’s auto giants how to make compelling zero-emission cars. Tesla’s first effort, a modified Lotus Elise chassis packed with 7,000 tiny lithium-ion cells, was a high-end concept that would soon be followed by a lower-priced family sedan, the chief executive said. The vision he laid out that day ultimately came to pass, but not with him in charge.
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