Elon Musk’s master plan

Solar, energy storage and electric vehicles are at the core of Elon Musk’s Master Plan, part 2.
Published: Fri 22 Jul 2016

Followers of Tesla with its production of electric vehicles, more recently its foray into battery energy storage systems and its recent bid for SolarCity will have a good idea of the direction CEO Elon Musk is talking the company. [Engerati-Tesla seeks to become first ‘vertically integrated energy company offering end to end products’

Now in a blog post he has set out formally this direction at a high level but with limited implementation detail in his ‘Master Plan, Part Deux’. This following an earlier master plan of 10 years ago and that is “now in the final stages of completion.” That plan, in Musk’s words, “wasn't all that complicated” and consisted essentially of creating successively higher volume, lower priced vehicles and providing solar power.

There was clearly vision in that plan. A decade ago there was barely a handful of gigawatts of installed solar capacity and the technology was expensive. But year on year it has grown – to 40GW five years ago and 227GW in 2015 – while at the same time its price has plummeted. [Engerati-$1 trillion for solar energy by 2030]

Integrating solar and storage

The next obvious step is to integrate storage, with its fast declining costs, to the solar and this makes up a key element of Musk’s plan.

“One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app,” he says.

Presenting reasoning for the proposed takeover of SolarCity by Tesla, he attributes the fact that they are separate companies, “despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy”, as “largely an accident of history.”

“We can't do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies… Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.”

The deal has yet to go through, but in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Musk was bullish, saying he expected a two-thirds shareholder majority in its favour.

Smart transport for smart cities

The second part of Musk’s master plan revolves around electric vehicles and autonomy in the transport sector.

On the one hand, this will involve further developments of EVs, particularly production of the Model 3 – which he envisions as the company’s lowest cost vehicle – and the introduction of a compact SUV and a pickup truck for the consumer market. [Engerati-Tesla Model 3 – The ‘Apple’ of EVs] In addition, two other types of EVs, heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport, are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year.

On the other hand, it will involve the introduction of self-drive capability in a way that could revolutionise both the ownership and use of vehicles. Such a move would have undoubted appeal to city managers, facing increasing congestion and issues such as shortage of parking as the numbers of vehicles in cities increase.

In smart cities, self-drive vehicles would be an obvious app towards limiting the numbers of vehicles on the streets and optimising the flow of traffic.

Musk’s plan envisions two aspects to this autonomy – vehicle owners making their vehicles available as part of a fleet when not using them themselves, enabling them to generate income; and for those who don’t own vehicles or don’t wish to use them in cities, being able to call up a vehicle from a Tesla operated fleet.

“As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely,” states Musk.

He adds that he expects worldwide regulatory approval of self-driving to require something on the order of 10 billion km. Current fleet learning is happening at just over 5 million km per day.

“So, in short, Master Plan, Part Deux is:

• Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage

• Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments

• Develop a self-driving capability that is 10x safer than manual via massive fleet learning

• Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it.”

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