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Tesla Could Have Been Called Faraday, Seriously

Stage at Tesla's eventStage at Tesla's event
Stage at Tesla's event

At one point in the early life of electric car company Tesla, the company could have been named “Faraday,” revealed Tesla CEO Elon Musk during an interview at an energy industry conference at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. on Wednesday.

The name “Faraday” refers to Michael Faraday, the scientist who invented the electric motor. Musk said “Faraday” would have been his second choice for a name. Instead, the company was named after Nikola Tesla, the inventor and electrical engineer.

The second-choice name will ring a bell with electric car industry watchers. Ironically, “Faraday Future” is now the name of a new electric car startup and competitor to Tesla (TSLA).

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Faraday Future is backed by a billionaire Chinese tech entrepreneur and is planning on making an electric sedan, among other electric cars, at a factory under construction in Nevada. That’s the same state where Tesla is building its massive battery factory.

While there’s been considerable skepticism about the Los Angeles-based Faraday Future, the company’s investors have pledged $1 billion to build the factory. The company could be focused on selling electric cars to consumers in China, where the market is particularly difficult to break into and where Tesla has struggled.

Musk and his team during the early days of the car company were originally name-shopping because Musk said they didn’t own the trademark for Tesla. Instead, “a dude in Sacramento,” did, quipped Musk.

The genesis for the creation of Tesla was a lunch in 2003 between Musk and Tesla’s CTO JB Straubel, who was working on batteries and electric cars at Stanford University. Straubel mentioned a company called AC Propulsion, based in Southern California, which was making a prototype electric sports car.

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Musk and Straubel met with the company a short time later. Tesla’s first car the Roadster used some of the technology in AC Propulsion’s electric sports car called the “tzero.” Musk noted during the interview on Wednesday, “They [AC Propulsion] deserve a lot of credit for Tesla.”

Musk became CEO of Tesla in 2008 after he put in millions of dollars—or “all his money” as he put it— to save the company, which was on the brink of financial collapse. When you put all of your chips on the table “you have to play the hand yourself,” Musk remarked, explaining to the audience on Wednesday why he took over as CEO.