Distinguished Alumni Award (2008)
For leadership in creating high performance electric cars that combine efficiency with great driving performance.
BSCompE ’82, MSEE ‘84
CEO and Co-Founder (retired)
San Carlos, CA
Martin Eberhard had a storied career since completing his master’s degree at Illinois. After working with Wyse Technology, he was involved in founding Network Computing Devices (NCD). He left NCD after its successful IPO and founded Nuvo Media, which developed the Rocket eBook, a device that first allowed customers to purchase electronic versions of books from online bookstores. He facilitated the sale of NuvoMedia to Gemstar/TV Guide in 2000.
Martin then turned to developing an electronic car, creating Tesla Motors and developing the Tesla Roadster, which is a beautiful, unbelievably quick automobile, and yet is the most energy efficient car on the road.
Martin grew the cross-discipline Tesla Motors team to 280 people. He led development of the Roadster from inception through design and testing, including safety tests required by the US DOT, and also performance and range tests that validated his claims of sub-4-second 0-60 mph, and better than 220 miles on a charge.
Even before the first Tesla Roadster shipped, Martin’s vision has had an impact on the auto industry and the public perception of what an electric car can be. For example, Bob Lutz, Vice-Chairman of General Motors, publicly commented that he restarted GM’s electric car program with the Chevy Volt as a direct response to the Tesla Roadster.
Martin has recently left Tesla Motors to pursue other opportunities.