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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • Chris Anderson: Elon, what kind of crazy dream

  • would persuade you to think of trying

  • to take on the auto industry and build an all-electric car?

  • Elon Musk: Well, it goes back to when I was in university.

  • I thought about, what are the problems that are most likely

  • to affect the future of the world or the future of humanity?

  • I think it's extremely important that we have sustainable transport

  • and sustainable energy production.

  • That sort of overall sustainable energy problem

  • is the biggest problem that we have to solve this century,

  • independent of environmental concerns.

  • In fact, even if producing CO2 was good for the environment,

  • given that we're going to run out of hydrocarbons,

  • we need to find some sustainable means of operating.

  • CA: Most of American electricity comes from

  • burning fossil fuels.

  • How can an electric car that plugs into that electricity help?

  • EM: Right. There's two elements to that answer.

  • One is that, even if you take the same source fuel

  • and produce power at the power plant

  • and use it to charge electric cars, you're still better off.

  • So if you take, say, natural gas,

  • which is the most prevalent hydrocarbon source fuel,

  • if you burn that in a modern

  • General Electric natural gas turbine,

  • you'll get about 60 percent efficiency.

  • If you put that same fuel in an internal combustion engine car,

  • you get about 20 percent efficiency.

  • And the reason is, in the stationary power plant,

  • you can afford to have something that weighs a lot more,

  • is voluminous,

  • and you can take the waste heat

  • and run a steam turbine and generate

  • a secondary power source.

  • So in effect, even after you've taken transmission loss into account and everything,

  • even using the same source fuel, you're at least twice as better off

  • charging an electric car, then burning it at the power plant.

  • CA: That scale delivers efficiency.

  • EM: Yes, it does.

  • And then the other point is, we have to have sustainable means

  • of power generation anyway, electricity generation.

  • So given that we have to solve sustainable electricity generation,

  • then it makes sense for us to have electric cars

  • as the mode of transport.

  • CA: So we've got some video here

  • of the Tesla being assembled,

  • which, if we could play that first video --

  • So what is innovative about this process in this vehicle?

  • EM: Sure. So, in order to accelerate the advent of electric transport,

  • and I should say that I think, actually,

  • all modes of transport will become fully electric

  • with the ironic exception of rockets.

  • There's just no way around Newton's third law.

  • The question is how do you accelerate

  • the advent of electric transport?

  • And in order to do that for cars, you have to come up with

  • a really energy efficient car,

  • so that means making it incredibly light,

  • and so what you're seeing here

  • is the only all-aluminum body and chassis car

  • made in North America.

  • In fact, we applied a lot of rocket design techniques

  • to make the car light despite having a very large battery pack.

  • And then it also has the lowest drag coefficient

  • of any car of its size.

  • So as a result, the energy usage is very low,

  • and it has the most advanced battery pack,

  • and that's what gives it the range that's competitive,

  • so you can actually have on the order of a 250-mile range.

  • CA: I mean, those battery packs are incredibly heavy,

  • but you think the math can still work out intelligently --

  • by combining light body, heavy battery,

  • you can still gain spectacular efficiency.

  • EM: Exactly. The rest of the car has to be very light

  • to offset the mass of the pack,

  • and then you have to have a low drag coefficient so that you have good highway range.

  • And in fact, customers of the Model S

  • are sort of competing with each other

  • to try to get the highest possible range.

  • I think somebody recently got 420 miles out of a single charge.

  • CA: Bruno Bowden, who's here, did that,

  • broke the world record.EM: Congratulations.

  • CA: That was the good news. The bad news was that

  • to do it, he had to drive at 18 miles an hour constant speed

  • and got pulled over by the cops. (Laughter)

  • EM: I mean, you can certainly drive --

  • if you drive it 65 miles an hour,

  • under normal conditions,

  • 250 miles is a reasonable number.

  • CA: Let's show that second video

  • showing the Tesla in action on ice.

  • Not at all a dig at The New York Times, this, by the way.

  • What is the most surprising thing about the experience

  • of driving the car?

  • EM: In creating an electric car,

  • the responsiveness of the car is really incredible.

  • So we wanted really to have people feel as though

  • they've almost got to mind meld with the car,

  • so you just feel like you and the car are kind of one,

  • and as you corner and accelerate, it just happens,

  • like the car has ESP.

  • You can do that with an electric car because of its responsiveness.

  • You can't do that with a gasoline car.

  • I think that's really a profound difference,

  • and people only experience that when they have a test drive.

  • CA: I mean, this is a beautiful but expensive car.

  • Is there a road map where this becomes

  • a mass-market vehicle?

  • EM: Yeah. The goal of Tesla has always been

  • to have a sort of three-step process,

  • where version one was an expensive car at low volume,

  • version two is medium priced and medium volume,

  • and then version three would be low price, high volume.

  • So we're at step two at this point.

  • So we had a $100,000 sports car, which was the Roadster.

  • Then we've got the Model S, which starts at around 50,000 dollars.

  • And our third generation car, which should hopefully

  • be out in about three or four years

  • will be a $30,000 car.

  • But whenever you've got really new technology,

  • it generally takes about three major versions

  • in order to make it a compelling mass-market product.

  • And so I think we're making progress in that direction,

  • and I feel confident that we'll get there.

  • CA: I mean, right now, if you've got a short commute,

  • you can drive, you can get back, you can charge it at home.

  • There isn't a huge nationwide network of charging stations now that are fast.

  • Do you see that coming, really, truly,

  • or just on a few key routes?

  • EM: There actually are far more charging stations

  • than people realize,

  • and at Tesla we developed something

  • called a Supercharging technology,

  • and we're offering that if you buy a Model S

  • for free, forever.

  • And so this is something that maybe a lot of people don't realize.

  • We actually have California and Nevada covered,

  • and we've got the Eastern seaboard

  • from Boston to D.C. covered.

  • By the end of this year, you'll be able to drive

  • from L.A. to New York

  • just using the Supercharger network,

  • which charges at five times the rate of anything else.

  • And the key thing is to have a ratio of drive to stop,

  • to stop time, of about six or seven.

  • So if you drive for three hours,

  • you want to stop for 20 or 30 minutes,

  • because that's normally what people will stop for.

  • So if you start a trip at 9 a.m.,

  • by noon you want to stop to have a bite to eat,

  • hit the restroom, coffee, and keep going.

  • CA: So your proposition to consumers is, for the full charge, it could take an hour.

  • So it's common -- don't expect to be out of here in 10 minutes.

  • Wait for an hour, but the good news is,

  • you're helping save the planet,

  • and by the way, the electricity is free. You don't pay anything.

  • EM: Actually, what we're expecting is for people

  • to stop for about 20 to 30 minutes, not for an hour.

  • It's actually better to drive for about maybe 160, 170 miles

  • and then stop for half an hour

  • and then keep going.

  • That's the natural cadence of a trip.

  • CA: All right. So this is only one string to your energy bow.

  • You've been working on this solar company SolarCity.

  • What's unusual about that?

  • EM: Well, as I mentioned earlier,

  • we have to have sustainable electricity production

  • as well as consumption,

  • so I'm quite confident that the primary means

  • of power generation will be solar.

  • I mean, it's really indirect fusion, is what it is.

  • We've got this giant fusion generator in the sky called the sun,

  • and we just need to tap a little bit of that energy

  • for purposes of human civilization.

  • What most people know but don't realize they know

  • is that the world is almost entirely solar-powered already.

  • If the sun wasn't there, we'd be a frozen ice ball

  • at three degrees Kelvin,

  • and the sun powers the entire system of precipitation.

  • The whole ecosystem is solar-powered.

  • CA: But in a gallon of gasoline, you have,

  • effectively, thousands of years of sun power

  • compressed into a small space,

  • so it's hard to make the numbers work right now on solar,

  • and to remotely compete with, for example, natural gas,

  • fracked natural gas. How are you going to build a business here?

  • EM: Well actually, I'm confident that solar

  • will beat everything, hands down, including natural gas.

  • (Applause)CA: How?

  • EM: It must, actually. If it doesn't, we're in deep trouble.

  • CA: But you're not selling solar panels to consumers.

  • What are you doing?

  • EM: No, we actually are. You can buy a solar system

  • or you can lease a solar system.

  • Most people choose to lease.

  • And the thing about solar power is that

  • it doesn't have any feed stock or operational costs,

  • so once it's installed, it's just there.

  • It works for decades. It'll work for probably a century.

  • So therefore, the key thing to do is to get the cost

  • of that initial installation low,

  • and then get the cost of the financing low,

  • because that interest -- those are the two factors that drive the cost of solar.

  • And we've made huge progress in that direction,

  • and that's why I'm confident we'll actually beat natural gas.

  • CA: So your current proposition to consumers is,

  • don't pay so much up front.

  • EM: Zero.CA: Pay zero up front.

  • We will install panels on your roof.

  • You will then pay, how long is a typical lease?

  • EM: Typical leases are 20 years,

  • but the value proposition is, as you're sort of alluding to, quite straightforward.

  • It's no money down, and your utility bill decreases.

  • Pretty good deal.

  • CA: So that seems like a win for the consumer.

  • No risk, you'll pay less than you're paying now.

  • For you, the dream here then is that --

  • I mean, who owns the electricity from those panels for the longer term?

  • I mean, how do you, the company, benefit?

  • EM: Well, essentially,

  • SolarCity raises a chunk of capital

  • from say, a company or a bank.

  • Google is one of our big partners here.

  • And they have an expected return on that capital.

  • With that capital, SolarCity purchases and installs the panel on the roof

  • and then charges the homeowner or business owner

  • a monthly lease payment, which is less than the utility bill.

  • CA: But you yourself get a long-term commercial benefit from that power.

  • You're kind of building a new type of distributed utility.

  • EM: Exactly. What it amounts to

  • is a giant distributed utility.

  • I think it's a good thing, because utilities

  • have been this monopoly, and people haven't had any choice.

  • So effectively it's the first time

  • there's been competition for this monopoly,

  • because the utilities have been the only ones

  • that owned those power distribution lines, but now it's on your roof.

  • So I think it's actually very empowering

  • for homeowners and businesses.

  • CA: And you really picture a future

  • where a majority of power in America,

  • within a decade or two, or within your lifetime, it goes solar?

  • EM: I'm extremely confident that solar will be at least a plurality of power,

  • and most likely a majority,

  • and I predict it will be a plurality in less than 20 years.

  • I made that bet with someoneCA: Definition of plurality is?

  • EM: More from solar than any other source.

  • CA: Ah. Who did you make the bet with?

  • EM: With a friend who will remain nameless.

  • CA: Just between us. (Laughter)