By on June 26, 2008

musk.jpgTesla Motors Chairman Elon Musk begins his NewsHour interview by putting the hate on hydrogen. "If fuel cells were good, don't think you'd see them somewhere, like maybe in a laptop or a cell phone or a $200 million military satellite maybe? And yet, where do you see them?" Not that the majority of Tesla's deposit bestowing proto-customers have seen their Roadsters. Anyway, NewsHour asks, what's so special about a laptop-powered car anyway? "It's combining those little cans of chemicals," Musk educates. "A very large number of them, and making it safe and making it reliable and making it last a long time, and those are very difficult things and nobody's succeeded in doing that except Tesla." Musk quickly deflects attention to "model two," a $59k luxury sports sedan that's "just going to be awesome." Musk then drops the bomb in our headline, and takes a shot at TTAC. "There are always skeptics and naysayers, but I think the smart money's on us." (Quick! Get SpongeBob on the line. Is it opposite day?). There's lots more BS ("we actually expect to have eventually millions of cars on the road"). Suffice it to say, Musk's inquisitor eventually guzzles the Kool-Aid. "SPENCER MICHELS: You could change the world. ELON MUSK: We need to change the world. There's no choice." Next up: Musk walks on water. Or is that hydrogen?

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

27 Comments on “Tesla Death Watch 7: “I don’t think it’s possible to make an electric car that is competitive with a gasoline car”...”


  • avatar
    bleach

    No. 1 candidate to replace GM in the Dow Jones index. Uh, when they go public that is.

  • avatar
    Ralph SS

    Loved the SpongeBob reference.

    What a load of crap. Does he allow the interviewer to kiss the ring?

  • avatar
    1981.911.SC

    Do you think they believe this stuff or are they that good with the bald face lie?
    Isn’t there a theory about the bigger the lie, the more people believe it?

  • avatar
    dolo54

    This is a pretty good interview. What he’s saying is accurate. I even agree that all new cars in the fairly near future will be electric. Whether or not Tesla can get their cars fixed and to market is one thing, but they do have working batteries. And although maybe not having quite the claimed distance capability, they have passed crash tests. I know these guys are a long shot, but I am rooting for them. Eventually somebody will do what they are trying to do. And they may use quite a bit of the technology Tesla’s developed to do it.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Ok, that quote is a little out of context but Elon was spewing so much bs in that interview it doesn’t really matter. I love how he makes it out like starting an electric car company was all his idea, never mind Martin Eberhard. Also, this quote, regarding other car companies buying Tesla technology, was a gem: “we think we’ll be able to announce a deal with a major car company maybe later this year.” Sounds like a very agressively conservative approach.

  • avatar
    doug

    As a physicist and engineer, I find fuel cells interesting from a science POV. However, Musk is completely right about hydrogen.

  • avatar
    mel23

    Doug: Please say more about why you doubt the practicality of hydrogen.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    There’s a three part interview of Musk at AutoBlogGreen http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/06/26/autobloggreen-qanda-tesla-motors-chairman-elon-musk-epilogue/ where he goes into a lot of details about the founding of Tesla as well as the decision making regarding the two-speed transmission. He and Eberhard have conflicting (surprise!) stories about that problematic choice. Both point the finger at the other, but Eberhard’s story (it was Musk who insisted on the two-speed) seems more plausible.

    The interview repeatedly contrasts what Musk says with prior quotes from Eberhard, to show the contrast in how Tesla’s history is being (re)written.

    One important nugget: the White Star sedan will not have a range-extending gas engine, as was being contemplated a while back.

  • avatar

    “If fuel cells were good, don’t think you’d see them somewhere, like maybe in a laptop or a cell phone or a $200 million military satellite maybe? And yet, where do you see them?”

    Um, NASA has used fuel cells in spacecraft since the Gemini days. There are 3 fuel cells on the space shuttle for power generation.

    The military also has several portable fuel cell applications either in development or being tested in the field because batteries are too heavy and don’t last long enough.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Translation: The Clarity is cutting into our media face-time.

    Love & Bullets,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Tavert

    Hydrogen has one benefit, that’s energy per unit mass. Mass per unit volume sucks unless you store it cryogenically, which takes energy to do. But it’s a good alternative in space, when you’re talking between tens of thousands and millions of dollars per payload pound. And you’ve got a nice big tank of hydrogen for the rocket engine, and water is also a scarce commodity so you make good use of the fuel cell’s waste product. But still, most spacecraft without human occupants use solar panels, or nuclear thermal power for outer-planet probes.

    A little out of context? Seems more than a little, but maybe that’s just me. Musk starts the sentence with “In the absence of [lithium-ion technology].” And he’s right, lithium-ion is the best compromise of cost, energy density, and power density out of available electricity storage technologies.

    And I’ve seen a few Tesla Roadsters on the road near their store in Santa Monica. The drivers don’t look like Tesla employees to me, but I’m not sure.

  • avatar
    threeer

    So what, exactly, does a Teslo employee look like? One of my good friends is a Materials Manager for Tesla…kinda like asking what a criminal looks like!

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Are we talking about a hydrogen fuel-cell car or a battery car? There was a time (about 100 years ago) when battery cars were absolutely competitive with IC engined cars. That time is going to come around again as liquid fuel prices rise. As far as full-system energy efficiency, hydrogen fuel-cell cars will always be at a loss compared to battery cars. Fuel-cells might eventually take off, but I’ll bet batteries will rule the roost for many years before that.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I really enjoyed when they interviewed RW…saying that electric is not ready but soon it will be. And there will be a million on the road in 30 years, and GM will lead the way while Toyota flounders with their hybrids.

    Not exact words, just what I got out of it.

  • avatar
    doug

    z31 said: Um, NASA has used fuel cells in spacecraft since the Gemini days. There are 3 fuel cells on the space shuttle for power generation.

    Yeah, that’s a pretty large gaff, especially since Musk is in the space business.

    mel23 said: Doug: Please say more about why you doubt the practicality of hydrogen.

    There’s a lot one could say about this… I’ll just mention a couple points.

    First, hydrogen fuel cells are really, really expensive. Much more so than a battery. So it only makes sense to use them where cost is not as much of an issue and where they may have certain advantages over batteries (for spacecraft there are several).

    But if you put cost aside, hydrogen doesn’t make sense in terms of energy efficiency. If you consider the energy required to make hydrogen, transport it, and then put it in a form you can carry around in a tank in your car (either highly compressed or cryogenically liquefied), you’re much better off just putting that energy directly in a battery.

  • avatar
    doug

    Oops, just saw Tavert’s comment and he basically covered what I had to say.

    Yes the cars in the LA Tesla store are essentially used to give customers test drives while they wait (and wait) to get their cars. These customers have already put money down on a Roadster, but they can get their money back if they decide they no longer want to get one.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    doug:
    These customers have already put money down on a Roadster, but they can get their money back if they decide they no longer want to get one.

    Do you know how many have done so? I was kinda wondering why lawsuits haven’t been flying over this thing…

  • avatar
    doug

    ihatetrees :
    Do you know how many have done so? I was kinda wondering why lawsuits haven’t been flying over this thing…

    How many have done which? About 1000 have put down deposits. When Musk says they’ve sold 1000 cars, it would be more accurate to say they’ve taken 1000 deposits (some of which are 100% of purchase price).
    I don’t see why there would be any lawsuits since customers can always ask for their money back, but then they lose their place in line. I’ve heard there have been a few that asked for their deposits back. Instead of shifting everyone else up, Tesla resells that spot (perhaps at a premium) to someone else, typically someone high profile.

  • avatar

    I read the three part interview on AutoBlogGreen and it did look to me like Elon was fumbling through it and Martin had a more accurate and better written side, but that might be since Elon’s interview was a phone interview and Martin was emailing his responses.

    Certainly Tesla Motors has seen like a frank company when Martin was working for it and a secretive, not especially honest one since Martin left, and it’s hard for me to think that isn’t correlated.

    I do have a disturbing question for our experts.

    Elon has mentioned that Tesla is likely to get about $130 million in an IPO, plus about $200 million in government grants. This makes $330 million for him to work with.

    That seems like a lot, but doesn’t an entirely new car design generally take about four years and cost several billion dollars?

    i grant that Elon is likely to be significantly more efficient than Detroit automakers with their horrendous fixed costs, but off the top of my head I have a hard time believing that they can set up their own purpose-built factory and design an entirely new car from scratch without at least a billion or two in the bank.

    I have to be especially skeptical considering their present production problems, in which they cannot even get Martin car #2 in a timely manner. Putting it kindly, managing production doesn’t seem like their strong suit.

    Some questions for the peanut gallery:

    * Has anyone developed a brand new, modern car model, in which every part is unique, for under a billion dollars? (*)

    * How can Tesla, which can’t build a car to save its life, run a full-scale factory? Wouldn’t they be better off getting some Korean or Japanese company to handle assembly?

    * Wouldn’t Tesla be a lot smarter to simply continue to assemble Roadsters over the next couple of years? It seems to me they can be profitable, and people love them. From a profit and loss point of view, why not just be the Roadster company?

    * Where is Martin’s car hiding?

    D

    (*) The Model T or golf car style EVs don’t count; they are not really cars by today’s definition.

  • avatar
    kevinb120

    “1981.911.SC :
    June 26th, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Do you think they believe this stuff or are they that good with the bald face lie?
    Isn’t there a theory about the bigger the lie, the more people believe it?”

    Its made Al Gore over 105 million dollars in 7 years…A few more people and he can quickly cross in to the billionaire club with a few pieces of legislation.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Elon said:

    “If fuel cells were good, don’t think you’d see them somewhere, like maybe in a laptop or a cell phone or a $200 million military satellite maybe? And yet, where do you see them?”

    I find that quote interesting from a guy like Elon Musk. Dude is a space cadet (his Falcon 1 has a third-time’s-charm shot coming up next month) supposedely, and wonders why they don’t use fuel cells? Hmmm….

    NASA developed fuel cell technology as a high-power density electric energy source for space vehicles, that didn’t depend on being aligned at the sun – back in the early sixties.

    All manned NASA vehicles since Mercury…this would include Gemini, Apollo, and the space shuttle, they ALL use fuel cells in lieu of solar panels.

    Unlike Musk’s Falcon booster, all those vehicles actually have worked at some point in their operational history. Maybe some homework for Elon is due right about now perhaps?

    Hey z31..didn’t see your comment before posting this…but I obviously concur with your viewpoint here.

  • avatar
    Tavert

    Everything using fuel cells is extremely limited in its on-orbit lifetime. Satellites, rovers, and space stations last a lot longer with solar power… they would not be possible with fuel cells. And the next-gen NASA spacecraft Orion will use solar panels instead of fuel cells. What does that say about cost/benefit and technology maturity?

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    “Elon has mentioned that Tesla is likely to get about $130 million in an IPO, plus about $200 million in government grants. This makes $330 million for him to work with.”

    Yeah, reading Elon’s bio it seems that is his MO. He specializes in getting people to give him lots of money and then unloading the company. And after Musk gets his $330 million, I’m sure Tesla will have some money to work with too.

    Still, I gotta hand it to the guy, despite entering into the space business against industry giants and not producing a single working product, he’s got hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in contracts. His next rocket launch will even be carrying other people’s expensive sattelites. He is obviously a genious fundraiser and has more chutzpah than anybody I’ve heard of.

  • avatar
    Joe ShpoilShport

    I am not an expert…

    But since the subject of cost for development has come up I have questions:

    Other than the battery thing, what development is there? If it is an electric car, it has an electric motor. Electric motors have been built in every shape, size and power range for decades. And again, since it is electric – no combustion = no emission controls, no fuel management, no EPA issues? Further, if it is a modified Lotus, the basic structure, while I’m sure is not exactly the same, is not ground up development. That leaves getting the power to the wheels and brakes.

    Comments? (As if I have to ask) =O)

  • avatar
    nonce

    Hydrogen is very useful in rocketry. No form of chemical beats a H²/O² rocket in terms of Specific Impulse, where it generates about 450 pounds of thrust for each pound of propellant.

    (Nuclear and ion drives can do better, but they get you out of the “chemical” category.)

    There’s no real advantage to hydrogen for cars. Like doug said, you can just put the energy into a battery, at maybe 4× the efficiency.

    If you really have a fetish for taking massive amounts of electricity to make a liquid fuel and putting that into cars, then you can just generate gasoline instead of hydrogen. It is a little less efficient, but you don’t have to solve any problems like storage, transport, burn-off, regulatory hurdles, safety, engines, service, or fueling stations, all of which we’ve already done for gasoline.

    Hydrogen is dead. Put a fork in it, then blow it up.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Joe ShpoilShport:

    Tesla’s technology is the battery pack and the software to run the car. The motor was basically copied/licensed from AC Propulsion. They also spent a whole lot of time and money developing a two speed transmission (with two suppliers) that never worked.

  • avatar
    Giuseppe

    Hey, Elon, never say never. Fuel cells cost a lot today, but watch Honda’s FCX Clarity. And let’s see you take a midsize family car like that and put a battery in it that gives the 280 mile range. It would add more than a ton to the weight of the FCX.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • mcs: “A wiser use of battery electric at the current time than general population vehicles needing to operate...
  • brn: Ol Shel, Please inject your political opinion into every topic. Thank you.
  • Old_WRX: Judging by all the the todo in the “news” lately the next CV shutdown will be coming to a state...
  • Ol Shel: Companies shouldn’t be allowed to tell the public that they’re taking steps that please most...
  • Inside Looking Out: Porsche is lost in darkness. Suddenly there is no future. No light in the end of tunnel.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber