MARTIN EBERHARD, 45
Cofounder and CEO, Tesla Motors
Who killed the electric car? In the case of the dowdy buggy built for bumper-sticker types, blame Martin Eberhard, who created an electric-powered car that accelerates as fast as a Porsche and is just as sexy. “We needed to do something about our addiction to oil, but electric cars weren’t attractive,” says Eberhard, whose company is in San Carlos, California. “The right approach was to make one people would want to drive.” The Tesla Roadster is that car—it can go from zero to 60 in four seconds (an electric motor’s other advantage? performance) and has a shapely body (Lotus helped in the design). Eberhard’s two-seater can cover 250 miles on one overnight charge (from any wall outlet), and its energy efficiency is twice that of a hybrid—equivalent to 135 miles per gallon in a gasoline car. This explains why, despite a sticker price of $92,000, 325 units of the anticipated 2007 run have been pre-sold, and why Eberhard expects to sell 1,200 cars in 2008. While Detroit plays wait-and-see, about a dozen new electric-car companies in the Bay Area are following Eberhard’s lead. And as Silicon Valley evolves into the new Motor City, expect something else to be killed off. “The concept of the gas station,” Eberhard says confidently, “will be gone.”