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Palo Alto — There is a photo of JB Straubel from 2004 that has become part of Tesla lore. It was taken back when the company was more of a hopeful concept than an actual car maker. He is in the backyard of his house, hand-glueing lithium ion batteries to a case as part of the arts and crafts project that was Tesla’s first vehicle. Straubel, the company’s long-time chief technology officer (CTO), looks the part of the youthful, eager, problem-solving engineer who has no idea of the hell that’s coming for him, and that’s exactly what he was. Of course, that version of Straubel also could never have imagined the heights he would achieve.

On Wednesday, as Tesla announced it had delivered 95,356 cars in its most recent quarter and another net loss, it also revealed that Straubel will cede his CTO position and step away from the daily grind to become an adviser to the company. For long-time Tesla watchers, it’s an astonishing change. Straubel represents, alongside Elon Musk, the sou...

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