Tesla Inc. Hopes Silicon Valley will provide it with the same creative energy that the industrial Midwest imparted to Detroit auto makers, the electric-vehicle manufacturer's chief technical officer says.

Electric powertrains are “as much an electrical engineering and software-integration task as (they are) a mechanical engineering and automotive task,” J.B. Straubel tells Ward's as the California-based startup announces plans to expand its powertrain-manufacturing capacity.

“To have access to the pool of engineers here with a lot of expertise around those disciplines has served us very well,” Straubel says. “That's a big part of why we have made a strong commitment to stay in the area with our powertrain and (research and development) functions.”

Privately held Tesla, which has delivered nearly 700 highway-capable EVs and in July achieved profitability after five years of operation, will establish a powertrain manufacturing site on a 23-acre (9.3-ha) parcel in Palo Alto.

The auto maker also will move its headquarters to the northern California facility, which once was home to computer-giant Hewlett Packard Co.

Tesla's current battery-pack production site is running “100% at capacity.” A battery-powered sedan is set to launch in 2011 as a '12 model.