Martin F. Eberhard
For entrepreneurship and pioneering contributions to electric vehicles.
When you talk about advances in electric cars, you’re talking about Martin Eberhard. Recognized as the “battery guru” of the electric automobile industry, his key innovations have set the direction for electric car development. Eberhard’s vision, along with
co-founder Mark Tarpenning, led to the formation of Tesla Motors, the luxury automotive giant that is leading the way in the industry.
Tesla first gained notoriety following the production of the first fully electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster. Even before the first Tesla Roadster shipped in 2008, Eberhard’s vision had transformed the way consumers think of electric vehicles. The auto industry was also inspired. A General Motors executive commented that their electric car program was restarted as a direct response to the Tesla Roadster, hence the Chevy Volt.
Eberhard believes an electric car should not be a compromise. With the right technology choices, it is possible to build electric cars that are actually better cars than their competition, he said.
Tesla Motor’s battery system, which Eberhard envisioned, used nearly 7,000 lithium ion cells and an optically connected microprocessor. It is light, durable, provides unrivaled acceleration and energy storage, and can travel 220 miles on one charge.
Prior to founding Tesla, his entrepreneurial spirit, his concern for the environment, and his engineering knowledge were influential in the eBook industry. He co-founded NuvoMedia in 1997 and created the market for electronic books with the 1998 launch of the Rocket eBook, which provided for the first time the necessary infrastructure to sell and deliver electronic content securely on the Internet.
Before NuvoMedia, Eberhard was co-founder and Chief Engineer of Network Computing Devices. He also developed high-volume terminals for Wyse Technology. Since leaving Tesla Motors in 2007, Eberhard served for two years as the Director of Electric Vehicles at the Volkswagen Electronics Research Laboratory.
Eberhard has received numerous accolades, including being ranked among the “24 Top Innovators” by Fortune Magazine and among the “50 People Who Matter Now” by Business 2.0 Magazine, in 2007. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and the California Air Resources Board about the future of electric vehicles.
Eberhard serves on boards of startups, several of which are in the electric vehicle space. He has lectured around the world on reducing the use of carbon fuels, on the advantages of electric drive over other automotive technologies, on entrepreneurship, and on the need for young people to pursue degrees in science and engineering.
As Eberhard’s ideas continue to gain traction in the marketplace, he is investing in the next generation that will continue to build on them through the establishment of the Eberhard Engineering Scholarship Fund. In 2014, he was chosen as a Distinguished Alumnus in the College of Engineering and, recently an Alumni Award for Distinguished Service from the University of Illinois.
- BS, 1982, Electrical and Computer Engineering, ILLINOIS
- MS, 1984, Electrical Engineering, ILLINOIS