If you think rock star CEO, Elon Musk just wants to sell you an electric car, you only have a fraction of his planet-saving story.
To really get an idea of the scale of his masterplan, you have to look to Tesla’s new Gigafactory in Nevada, which Musk claims is on schedule to mass-produce lithium-ion batteries at rock bottom costs by 2018.
The US$5bn facility, built in partnership with Panasonic, will be capable of producing more batteries than the rest of the world combined when it’s operating at full capacity – and three more of these gigantic operations are now in the pipeline.
These are the batteries that Musk not only hopes you’ll be using in your family Tesla saloon, but also in a wall-mounted unit in your garage capable of powering your car overnight and your entire home.
Last year the global tech deity engineered Tesla’s US$2.6bn takeover of SolarCity, a maker of rooftop solar panels that was initially funded by Musk and founded by his cousin, Lyndon Rive.
The revolutionary glass tiles – they appear opaque from street-level but are transparent to the sun – will turn each home into its own green power plant, says Musk, 45.
Earlier incarnations of the solar home battery system have been used by select Australian households for months, with a newer, vastly more efficient version expected to go on wider sale this year.
“If you have a great solar roof, and you have a battery pack in your house and you have an electric car, that’s something that scales worldwide. You can solve the whole energy equation with that,” Musk trumpeted at a recent U.S. launch for his Powerpack 2 battery and solar tiles.
Offer sparks Twitter storm
To prove his confidence in this renewable source, Tesla has already built a US$100 million grid-connected battery installation in Southern California – one of the biggest of its type in the world – and another smaller one in Hawaii. Experts predict that the latter facility alone will reduce fossil fuel usage by 1.6 million gallons per year.
Tesla’s California battery farm is designed to discharge 80-megawatt hours of electricity in four-hour periods. It contains enough batteries to run about 1,000 Tesla cars, and the equivalent energy to supply power to 15,000 homes for four hours.
It’s only slightly smaller than the installation he offered to supply to South Australia in March to help solve its short-term power woes.
As a measure of his immense pulling power, Musk had the internet buzzing with his lifeline tweet, but although the gesture was warmly received by everyone from state premier Jay Weatherill to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, it quickly lost steam.
As the ABC points out, there are already several companies proposing big battery solutions to Australia’s most pro-active carbon-free state, and some are already well advanced.
Investors impervious to speed bumps
While Musk’s plans to help save the world from climate change may inspire awe and curiosity, they often fall short in the execution, reveals The New Yorker.
In its 14 years, Tesla has never made a profit, and since 2011, has failed to meet Musk’s product-launch, production, and financial-performance promises more than 20 times, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal.
Critics have also been quick to attack his new seat on the advisory board of climate control denier President Trump, forcing Musk on yet another charm offensive.
“Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration,” Musk countered in a statement.
“My goals are to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy and to help make humanity a multi-planet civilisation, a consequence of which will be the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs and a more inspiring future for all.”
Despite all the hits Musk and Tesla have taken, Wall Street, at least, can’t seem to get enough of all this futuristic talk.
The company promising to send the first paying punters to the moon by 2018 , and to start the colonisation of Mars by 2024 in Musk’s SpaceX rocket, has ascended into a rarefied realm of so-called story stocks, writes the New York Times.
These are the behemoths that have so bewitched investors that their stock prices are impervious to any traditional valuation measures.
Legendary mutual fund manager Ron Baron, famous for buying and holding long-term stocks, told CNBC that he expects a substantial increase in the US$300 million he’s already staked in Tesla.
“I think in 2025 we can make another triple, and in 2030 it can be another triple,” said a bullish billionaire.
“Tesla is reinventing the electric grid – that’s a bigger opportunity than cars.”