Martin Eberhard, one of the principle founders of Tesla Motors, is winding up his time at the House of Volkswagen.
Eberhard has been advising Volkswagen and its many brands on electric cars for about a year. (We broke the story here.) But the contract is about up, he tells us, and it won't be renewed. Eberhard is now raising funds for another startup. He wouldn't tell us what it was, but it revolves around cars.
While unconfirmed rumors have swirled that Eberhard, who has worked at startups for more than a decade, and the German conglomerate differed on the future of EV architecture, he said the parting was amicable.
Volkswagen was something of a latecomer among large car makers to take on hybrids and electrics. Last September at the Frankfurt Auto Show, Volkswagen showed off two electrics -- the E-Up! from Volkswagen and the E-Tron from Audi. The cars, however, wouldn't come out until 2013 and 2012, respectively. Volkswagen executives also downplayed the impact electrics would have on the market, estimating that electrics might only constitute 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the market by 2020. Instead, Volkswagen said the main reduction in fuel consumption would come from more efficient diesel and gas engines.
Frankly, that's largely in line with the strategies of other large car makers. Ford will place more emphasis on its EcoBoost engine for gas cars than on electrics over the coming years. Still, Volkswagen was a little more skeptical than most, which is where Eberhard came in. This year, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said that the company would play a key role in electrified driving and Porsche, now part of VW, announced it would make electric cars.
So think of this as a corporate version of Mary Poppins. Bubbly enthusiast comes in to perk up a household and then flies off on a magic umbrella.