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One college student rides the Tesla stock wave

Friday, 23 Aug 2013 | 5:09 PM ET
Tesla millionaires?
Friday, 23 Aug 2013 | 2:53 PM ET
CNBC's Phil LeBeau reports the latest on Tesla's safety concerns; and Patrick Hop, Berkeley student, shares why he poured his life savings into Tesla when shares were selling for $32.

Patrick Hop admits that everyone told him he shouldn't do it.

A year later, he's glad he ignored their warnings.

The 22-year-old student at the University of California, Berkeley invested $30,000 into Tesla stock a year ago and has parlayed it into an investment worth approximately $250,000 today.

"I was always preaching to my friends, 'Tesla's gonna be huge' and my friends thought I was crazy," said Hop. "Now my friends are surprised this has actually worked."

Officially, Hop's gains are all on paper. But that paper keeps going up in value. On Friday, Tesla shares climbed above $160 for the first time ever—meaning the stock is up more than 400 percent in the past year.

What's Tesla stock doing now? (Click here to get the latest quote.)

(Read more: Three things that could slow down Tesla)

Letting it ride on TSLA

Hop, made in his initial investment in Tesla a year ago when the stock was trading at $32. When Tesla stock took off, Hop went along for the ride. When it soared to $115, he dumped the stock. But instead of pocketing a huge profit, he reinvested the money into Tesla call options that expire in January 2015 with a strike price of $130.

"I figure it wasn't that risky going into those options," said Hop. "And I'll probably dump those options in the next month or two."

When it's all said and done, it remains to be seen exactly how much of a profit Hop will make off his initial investment. Still, the college student who hopes to someday start up his own company thinks his strategy of investing heavily in one company was the right thing to do.

After all, Hop considers himself a Tesla expert since he spends extensive time researching and tracking Tesla. "I'm a big believer in their battery technology."

(Read more: Elon Musk: Tired but optimistic about Tesla's future)

Elon Musk on Tesla's stock price
Shares of Tesla Motors (TSLA) have been in overdrive, up 353 percent on the year. But could the stock be overvalued? You'll be surprised to hear what CEO Elon Musk thinks. But first, Phil Lebeau asks if the Tesla co-founder considers his company a tech-innovator or an automaker.

Overvalued at $160?

As Tesla shares climb to a new high, it's renewed the debate about whether or not shares of Tesla are overvalued? Or should analysts look at Tesla with the valuation of an auto company or a tech company?

"We're an automotive tech company," Tesla CEO Elon Musk told CNBC Thursday on the automakers plant floor in Fremont, Calif.

"I'm not a fan of trying to pump the stock or trying to convince people the stock should be higher, or even convince people the stock should be where it is now. I actually think the value of Tesla right now, the market is being very generous and it's obviously giving us a lot of credit for future execution."

Investors are betting that Tesla can expand sales from a projected 21,000 this year to well over 100,000 in three to four years when the company rolls out a lower-priced third-generation car. So there's a lot of execution risk built into the bullish sentiment surrounding Tesla right now.

Nobody is more aware of that risk than Musk.

(Read more: Investors plug back in after Tesla earnings surprise)

"I really think the valuation we've gotten is more than we have any right to deserve honestly," said Musk. "We need to make sure we knock the ball out of the park in the coming years."

Betting on Tesla, banking on Musk

When Hop thinks about the risks that could bring Tesla shares, and his sizable investment, crashing down, he worries about earthquakes and Musk stepping down as CEO. "There's definitely some outlying risks with Tesla and Elon leaving is one of them," he said.

Fortunately for Hop, Musk isn't leaving Tesla anytime soon. He's committed to running the company at least through the projected ramp up in production of a third-generation car, which is at least three to four years away.

"I think I get far too much credit for the success of Tesla," said Musk. "The reason we've been successful is because we have a team of people who work super hard. I'm the one who talks about the results but it's not me who did it really, it's the team here who did it."

"Teslanaires" hope Musk and his team continue doing what they're doing.

As for Hop, he's yet to buy a Model S. If and when he cashes in his Tesla investment, paying for a $70,000 Model S shouldn't be a problem. "I'll probably buy one at some point," said Hop.

—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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