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The first mass-produced all-electric vehicle was a Tesla. Getting to that point wasn’t easy, but the company’s co-founders built it from the ground up. Elon Musk played a considerable role, but others were equally important, including JB Straubel. Learn more about the lesser-known Tesla co-founder and the tragic accident that killed his wife.

Who is JB Straubel?

JB Straubel wife death
JB Straubel in March 2022 | Aaron M. Sprecher/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you’ve followed Tesla closely over the years, you might recognize JB Straubel. His name is linked to the beginnings of the EV maker we know today as Tesla. 

Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning formed Tesla Motors in 2003. Elon Musk came in as the first investor in the project the following year. JB Straubel also came aboard in 2004 after meeting with Musk and joining the Tesla board.

In 2007 and 2008, Eberhard and Tarpenning exited the company, leaving Musk, who became the CEO, and Straubel, the brand’s chief technical officer (CTO). Straubel co-created and invented some of the technology the company still uses today. That includes the Tesla Supercharger stations dotting the country.

JB Straubel even met his wife, Boryana, at Tesla. She was a human resources executive. The two married in 2013 and had two boys. 

What happened to JB Straubel’s wife?

JB and Boryana Straubel had been married about eight years when an unthinkable tragedy happened. In June 2021, the 38-year-old was bicycling near their home in Nevada when she was struck and killed by an SUV that had crossed a double-yellow line into the bike lane. 

Police determined that a man and a woman inside the vehicle had lied about the crash. The 32-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a felony for reckless driving, obstructing an officer, resisting an officer, and driving without a license. The 37-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy and failure to report. 

According to The Mercury News, Boryana Straubel died at the crash site on June 19, 2021, around 7:45 a.m.

Following his wife’s death, JB Straubel dedicated more energy to working on his latest project because he believed she would’ve wanted that. 

What is the Tesla co-founder doing now?

In 2017, JB Straubel left Tesla and started Redwood Materials, a battery recycling company based in Carson City, Nevada. He said he left the EV maker because he had other ideas he wanted to develop. 

He planned to build battery components from used batteries and add new minerals into the mix. According to Time, his idea was to help reduce fossil fuel usage by creating a recycling supply chain to support massive electrification production, thereby making electric cars more affordable.

Today, Straubel plans to expand his company to other parts of Nevada, including Reno. Did his departure from Tesla affect his relationship with Musk? Straubel said he left on good terms, and Musk has had nothing but good things to say about him since. So far, Redwood Materials has contracts with Ford, Panasonic, and even Tesla. 

JB Straubel was pivotal in building Tesla into what it is today. After his wife’s tragic accident, he has worked even harder to create more sustainable, affordable EVs, a vision Boryana Straubel shared with her husband. 


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