Tesla Death Watch 7: "I Don't Think It's Possible to Make an Electric Car That is Competitive With a Gasoline Car"

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Tesla 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?

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Ralph ShpoilShport Ralph ShpoilShport on Jun 26, 2008

    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)

  • Nonce Nonce on Jun 26, 2008

    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.

  • Guyincognito Guyincognito on Jun 26, 2008

    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.

  • Giuseppe Giuseppe on Jul 04, 2008

    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.