Elon Musk Answers Tesla Owners' Questions in Oslo
For a solid hour and half, Elon Musk, supported by JB Straubel, sat on a stage in a theatre in Oslo, Norway to answer owner questions about Tesla's products and plans. But first the crowd was treated to a corporate-produced video showing a Tesla owner using his Model S to negotiate snow-packed roads in Norway, visiting remote power plants and enjoying a brief foray of cross-country skiing. Curiously enough, the topic of carrying skis came up in several audience questions related to the forthcoming Model X: specifically, where do I put them on top of the car when it appears the falcon-wing doors will prevent attaching the normal aftermarket ski rack?
Answering such seemingly trivial - from a non-skier's perspective - questions didn't appear to perturb Musk, who clearly enjoys these interactions with his customers. While owner questions about improvements to the car seemed quite welcome, Musk's big picture observations are a window into his thinking about the company and its products today and tomorrow.
For example, despite suggestions that Tesla adapt its technology to marine applications or even airplanes, the company will remained strictly focused for the foreseeable future on the automotive sector, although Musk admitted he has some ideas about an electric VTOL supersonic airplane.
The next car to come out will be the Model X, Tesla's first SUV, which is based on the Model S platform, but which has posed significantly harder engineering and styling challenges, Musk explained. Its larger size and frontal area will mean it will get about 10% less range per kilometer than the S. But he also noted that it's possible the company will offer a larger capacity battery in 2015, which is just about the time the X will go into production. He also told the audience that all the profits from the S and X will go into the 'generation three' car, which he says is the "Holy Grail" of the company, an affordable but great electric car for the masses. To get there, however, Tesla needs to find a way to cut the cost of batteries by as much as 40 percent; and to do that will require constructing the world's largest lithium battery production plant capable of producing 30 gigawatts of battery capacity annually. That's more, he emphasized, than all the lithium battery manufacturers in the world combined. Such a plant would have the capacity to turn out half a million cars annually.
But for now, the more immediate goal is 100,000 cars annually. At present, Tesla has the capacity to produce 30,000 units a year, he stated. The 100,000 number would put Tesla "next to the decimal point" -- 0.1% -- of total cars manufactured globally each year: 100 million.
Thinking ahead towards Spring, several asked about expansion of the Supercharger network and the pair reassured the crowd that Tesla would add another 100 stations across Europe by the end of 2014 and that, yes, it will be possible to drive from Oslo to Paris, probably by summer. The company is also finishing up engineering work on a CHAdeMO adapter that will enable owners to also use Nissan's fast charger network across Europe.
And for those wanting to make those long, cross-country trips, Musk affirmed that Tesla is working on what he calls an 'auto pilot' system, or what others refer to as autonomous driving systems. He said he's confident that Tesla will be the first to offer the system, but advised that it will come in stages and is dependent on regulatory approval. Safety is primary, he told them.
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