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While the major carmakers were still experimenting with NiMH batteries, AC Propulsion was packing cylindrical lithium batteries originally destined for laptop computers into the tZero.

AC Propulsion - The Fuse to the Revolution

EVWorld's 2004 Interview with AC Propulsion's Tom Gage in the wake of Michelin's Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai


Before there was the Model Y, the Model 3, the Model X, the Model S, and the Tesla Roadster, there was the tZero.

Before there was Elon Musk and JB Strauble and Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning and Ian Wright there was Alan Cocconi and Alec Brooks and Tom Gage.

Musk and company can certainly be credited with popularizing the electric car, but if you want to know who really lite the fuse of the EV revolution, it's Cocconi and Brooks and Gage, and the team they pulled together first at Aerovironment and then AC Propulsion in San Dimas, CA.

Pretty much everything we take for granted in a modern electric car today - excepting self-driving - these guys either invented, improved or adapted: AC induction motors, regenerative braking, bi-directional (V2G) charging, and maybe most important of all, the use of 18650 lithium ion laptop computer cells, thousands of them, to power an electric car that was not limited to 100 miles range, but hundreds of miles: the newest long-range Tesla Model S, as well as its forthcoming rival Mercedes are either capable of (according to EPA numbers) or shooting for 400+ miles on a charge.

I recently came across an interview that I did with Tom Gage in 2004. He had just returned from the Michelin Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai, China where ACP had two cars in the competition. It was their pioneering efforts, first on behalf of GM in late 80s, early 90s and then later Volvo and BMW and Venturi that demonstrated to the guys up in Silicon Valley that a neck-snappingly quick, comparatively longer-range electric car was now possible. And as they say, the rest is history. Musk would go on to become one of the richest men in the world with his sights on Mars colonization. The rest of the actors in the revolution would more or less recede into the wings, but not before having played the vital role of lighting the fuse to a paradigm altering technology that is just now starting to gain serious traction in displacing the internal combustion engine.

I thought it would be useful to repost the interview with Tom to offer some historic perspective of how we got where we are today. These are the giants in whose hands the revolution was forged.

First Published: 2004-10-24

Pages Viewed: 22017

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