when he oversaw the design of Tesla’s electric Roadster, which shocked the auto industry by reaching a battery-only range of 244 miles. Later, he spearheaded the design of the Model S electric sedan, which received the best safety score of any vehicle ever tested by the National Traffic Safety Administration, as well as “possibly the best score ever” in a battery of 50 tests performed by Consumer Reports.
Straubel’s mission could culminate in the introduction later this year of a truly affordable electric vehicle known as the Tesla Model 3. The Model 3, which will feature a $30,000 pricetag (after incentives) and a 200-mile all-electric range, is expected by many to serve as a starting point in a long steady climb to a point when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins. Up to now, 200-mile electric cars have appealed mostly to high-end enthusiasts willing to shell out more than $70,000.
That Straubel should play a key role in this electric revolution comes as a surprise to no one. Family members said he was acting as an engineer as early as junior high school, when he built a working hover craft for a science fair. He did it again when he commandeered the family leaf blower to construct a blow furnace, which he used to melt aluminum, although it was never clear why a pre-high-school-age boy needed molten aluminum.
“JB was born to be an engineer,” his mother, Carol Straubel, told Design News in 2009, when her son, at 34, was named the youngest Design News Engineer of the Year ever.
Still, his mission is far from finished. Straubel now serves on the board of directors for SolarCity and teaches an energy storage integration class, while overseeing the scale-up of the Model 3 program. Even if the Model 3 is massively successful, Straubel is unlikely to stop pushing the automotive industry envelope. “It really feels like we’re trying to change the world,” he told us in 2009. “There’s a real David-and-Goliath feel to it.”
JB Straubel will deliver a keynote speech, Growth in US Manufacturing for EVs, Batteries and Solar , at Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland on March 29, 2017.
Minjuan Zhang and her Toyota colleagues are trying to provide unobstructed views for drivers by developing an “invisibility cloak.”
In an industry where power is paramount, Minjaun Zhang is different. Unlike many automotive engineers, Zhang doesn’t deal with horsepower and torque, or even velocity and acceleration. She deals with light, and the way the human eye sees it.
Zhang, a material scientist and longtime Toyota engineer, has amassed more than 50 patents, many of which are based on the properties of materials, and the way light interacts with them. And while that may at first seem vaguely peripheral to automotive engineering, it isn’t. Zhang’s work has the potential to affect driver visibility, safety and, yes, even sales.
In 2016, Zhang made her mark with introduction of a paint color called structural blue. Used on the 2017 Lexus LC 500H,