Elon Musk’s vision board for Tesla — Quartz


Most of us don’t see the future like Elon Musk. Early in his life, the Tesla CEO said he became obsessed with electric cars, artificial intelligence, clean energy and software. “I like to make real the technologies that I think are important for the future and useful in some way,” he told author Ashlee Vance in her book. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the quest for a fantastic future. Today, Musk has combined the four obsessions in his vision for Tesla (detailed in his two master plans). We’ve distilled Musk’s thoughts for Tesla’s future into a vision board that we imagine only he can create.

Let’s break down each element.


More and better batteries

Batteries, Musk knew early on, were going to be key to the rise of electric vehicles (EVs). But he also knew that the existing supply chain would not be enough to satisfy a global electric vehicle industry. To remedy this, Tesla built its first “Gigafactory” in the Nevada desert in a joint venture with battery manufacturer Panasonic.

Today, Tesla designs its own “million mile” batteries (using a different process and chemistry than most existing EV batteries). Automakers have watched with concern as Tesla announced price targets well ahead of expectations of $100 per kilowatt-hour by 2025. “That’s absolutely uncompetitive,” says Nathan Niese, automotive expert at Boston Consulting Group, noting that Tesla promises $60 per kWh. Even earlier. Tesla may not hit that target, but even a near-miss would give the company a huge advantage: Batteries remain the most expensive part of an electric vehicle, accounting for 21% of the total cost.

By 2030, Tesla says it will manufacture more than 3 terawatt hours of batteries per year, about three times more than the projected global manufacturing capacity of 1.3 terawatt hours (TWh), according to energy research firm Wood Mackenzie.


Perfecting the machine that builds the machine

Musk’s obsessive drive to perfect the factory has already ended in tears. In his first quest to build a fully automated “alien dreadnought” factory, Tesla nearly went bankrupt while building high-speed assembly robots. “We’ve gone too far on the automation front and automated some pretty stupid things,” Musk said in 2018, including a “fluffy robot” tasked with picking up fiberglass insulation mats and installing them. in the batteries. “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake”, Musk admitted to a follow-up tweet. “To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underestimated.

Those days are behind her. The company now plans to erect its seventh factory, having set up facilities from California to Shanghai. Musk is pursuing two strategies simultaneously: making steady, incremental improvements to manufacturing lines, while reinventing the age-old process of “metal bending,” as industry veterans refer to the labor-intensive automotive manufacturing.

There’s no better indication of Tesla’s plans than his 2019 patent for a “Giga press.” Tesla’s patent shows a machine to die-cast most of the automobile’s underbody into a single piece of metal, a “radical departure from the traditional automobile production process,” JPMorgan wrote in a February investor note. . Tesla is installing a version of its press at its Fremont plant that can replace dozens of welded metal parts into a single rear body component, dramatically reducing production costs.

You’re here

Robotaxi, take me home

Musk sees Tesla’s destiny as the world’s largest maker of autonomous electric vehicles. Although the self-driving software behind Tesla’s in-car navigation system, Autopilot, has steadily improved over the years, the road has been bumpy (and sometimes deadly). And that’s far behind the schedule. In 2017, Musk promised that all of Tesla’s autopilot-equipped cars would be able to drive across the country without a human behind the wheel. That still seems unlikely (and far beyond what regulators have been willing to sanction).

But experts say it’s only a matter of time before self-driving vehicles become the norm. Capabilities improve every year. Today, Tesla vehicles can “guide” drivers from on-ramp to off-ramp, change lanes, park and stop at traffic lights. Once the technology is perfected, the automotive market will likely become the mobility market: shared fleets of autonomous vehicles that will transport us at the touch of an app. At this point, Musk argues, Tesla owners could make enough money loaning their cars out as robotaxis “to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla.”


Juice on the grid

Musk’s vision has always been to electrify everything with lots of cheap solar power and store it in batteries in Tesla’s vehicles, as well as in buildings and the existing power grid. Musk realizes this vision by growing Tesla’s energy storage business (up 83% in 2020) and designing and manufacturing solar panels, specifically solar panel roof tiles for homes (a range of products which is now years behind). Once utilities begin integrating EVs into the grid as dynamic batteries (software allows batteries to supply power to the grid during peak periods), Tesla can become an end-to-end solution to generate, store and distribute clean solar energy around the world. .


Connect the ultimate software: the brain

Musk’s startup Neuralink has created a circular device embedded with computer chips that sits on top of the brain to wirelessly connect it to a computer. Musk thinks it will eventually help solve everything from memory loss to addiction to paralysis. But it is still far from happening; MIT Technology Review calls the effort “neuroscience theater.” Nothing Neuralink has demonstrated so far comes as a surprise to researchers who have been conducting similar experiments since the 1990s. But Neuralink’s real goal, according to Musk, is a “consumer device” that can improve the human brain over the next decade. This, Musk suggests, can help us stay ahead of artificial intelligence, which Musk has repeatedly called an existential threat to humanity.


Retreat to the Red Planet

Musk said he’s ready to book a one-way trip to Mars and spend his golden years there once he’s done his business here on Earth. “It would be a good place to retire,” the SpaceX CEO said in 2010. There are a few steps until then, though. Currently, his space exploration company continues to perfect more powerful rockets to leave Earth orbit and carry humans to Mars. Musk predicted that we will land humans on the red planet in 2028 or so, then followed up with a Mars colony ship carrying hundreds of people a few years later. After that? Terraform Mars to become a green planet.


Comments are closed.