Chief Technical Officer of Tesla Motors JB Straubel speaks during an unveiling of a new "Supercharger" station at their factory in Fremont, Calif., on Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Bay Area News Group, Anda Chu)Photograph by Anda Chu — AP
Straubel says he’s “always been interested in electricity in general,” and that even in his youth he liked to tinker with wires and batteries (at age 14, he rebuilt an electric golf cart). Unlike most childhood passions, he turned his into a career. The Stanford Energy systems engineer and aeronautics whiz initially met with Tesla CEO Elon Musk to talk about electric planes— both are pilots—but ended up connecting over Musk’s dreams of an electric-car company. After helping persuade Musk to fund what would become Tesla, Straubel became CTO, and more than a decade later he’s still there, overseeing the technical and engineering design of the vehicles and often testing new hardware himself in his own Tesla models.