By on July 14, 2008

Almost there... (courtesy shatterhand007.com)The fact that Tesla Chairman Elon Musk owns a solar power and space launch company is, at least potentially, a perfect trifecta. When Musk finally announces that Space X will be launching solar panels into orbit to beam juice to a million gen3 EVs, he'll square the circle. Until then, we just have to listen to more co- and tri-branded crap. This time, it's Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria (author of The Post-America World) in Tesla's spinning teacups. "Q. What's your goal in producing the Tesla Roadster. A. This car itself is not going to change the world—it's a $100,000 sports car being produced in quantities of about 1,800 a year." "About" meaning… 50? Less? "Q. When you plug into an outlet, you're in effect plugging into coal, because a lot of the electricity produced in the United States is coal-fired. Does that bother you from a global-warming perspective? A. I'm very familiar with the "long tailpipe" criticism. I have another company, SolarCity, which is the largest provider of solar power to homes and businesses in California. The solution is to get a SolarCity solar panel on your roof and then have an electric car. It takes actually only a small solar-panel setup—of about 10 by 15 feet—to generate 200 to 400 miles a week of electricity for your car." So, are we cool?

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20 Comments on “Tesla Death Watch 11: “In 30 years, a majority of all new cars produced in the United States, perhaps worldwide, will be electric”...”


  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Elon’s SpaceX is hoping third times the charm with the rocket. They make a launch I think at the end of this month.

    I hope it works better than the car this time.

  • avatar
    mel23

    As long as one of the battery packs doesn’t explode and kill somebody, this guy doesn’t seem to be doing any harm. Lightening a few wallets, but the buyers of his stuff can afford it. One thing can be said for him which is that he gets a hell of lot of publicity for what he has. Keeping interest going in battery-powered cars can be a good thing, and buyers of a real product, from Toyota for example, will be ready when such arrives. I’m starting to appreciate him.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Another example of a journalist being too afraid to ask the tough questions. Elon’s credibility is never challenged, leaving the reader to question Zakaria’s credibility.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    Wow, that was the worst interview I’ve ever seen Fareed do. I have a great deal of respect for him. He normally goes after politicians with tough questions. Perhaps he just felt out of his element there. I mean presented with a salesman like Elon, how could he not want to dig a little deeper into those claims?

  • avatar
    doug

    When Musk finally announces that Space X will be launching solar panels into orbit to beam juice to a million gen3 EVs, he’ll square the circle.

    Musk has already commented that this idea doesn’t make sense when you work out the cost versus the benefit.

  • avatar

    guyincognito:

    Wow, that was the worst interview I’ve ever seen Fareed do. I have a great deal of respect for him. He normally goes after politicians with tough questions. Perhaps he just felt out of his element there. I mean presented with a salesman like Elon, how could he not want to dig a little deeper into those claims?

    You may not believe this, but I wasn’t offended by the interviewer’s underhand lobs. There wasn’t much he could do; space was strictly limited (so to speak) and Q & A is the weakest of all possible journalistic formats.

    Normally, the actual conversation upon which the finished article is based is both wide-ranging and specific. And then the interviewer/editor distills the content to a highly-polished form. And then, frequently, lamentably, the subject is allowed to scan the result to make sure it “accurately reflects” his or her opinions.

    No matter how you slice it, the Q & A is a fundamentally misleading way of presenting information. Although it’s supposedly a verbatim conversation, it isn’t. And something is always lost on the cutting room floor.

    Our Canadian Correspondent Samir Syed has landed an interview with Basil “Buzz” Hargrove for TTAC (we’ll have it at month’s end). Samir asked if he could write it up Q & A-style. To which I replied HELL NO.

  • avatar
    Michael Ayoub

    Is that when people are going to take delivery of their Tesla Roadsters?

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Samir got an interview with Buzz H!? Outstanding. I have some questions that I would like to submit…

    1. Adam Smith – ever heard of him?
    2. David Ricardo – ever heard of him either?
    3. Now that you’re retired, do you plan to get your GED?

  • avatar
    Samir

    Dammit Farago… I wanted to surprise everyone!

    Yes, I’ll be in Toronto on July 29 if everything goes according to plan. You know VIPs though, the schedule can change any time. SO NO PROMISES.

  • avatar

    “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department,” says Wernher von Braun.

    Using solar panels to power an electric vehicle is the right idea — and now that scientists have developed plate glass windows that generate ten times as much electricity as regular silicon based solar panels you can even expect an increase in that range estimate.

    If Musk had focused on a platform of EVs that would have a large customer base, instead of this squared circle vanity vehicle, he’d be on his way now.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    If Musk had focused on a platform of EVs that would have a large customer base, instead of this squared circle vanity vehicle, he’d be on his way now

    Not currently possible, given the cost of the battery. There’s arguably enough financial room to shoehorn the battery into a $109,000 car, but nowhere near enough to put it in a $25,000 soccer-mom hauler.

    Maybe in the next 5-15 years, if all goes well, that will be possible. However, at that point the big boys will be more than happy to step in and stamp out such cars by the millions.

    Once you look past the method of propulsion, Tesla is a boutique auto manufacturer, more akin to Lamborghini than GM. Lamborghini exists in the same universe as GM, Toyota, Honda etc by offering an exclusive premium product at a high markup. Branding issues aside, if Lamborghini ever decided to try producing an entry-level car, they’d get killed, by economy of scale if nothing else.

    So it goes with Tesla. I think their best shot is to stay upstream. I hope they don’t get too far away from that.

  • avatar

    @healthy-skeptic

    In other words, the EVs that exist, that have the range and that are presently rolling on roads, are a figment of my imagination?

    Musk picked the wrong platform – where the battery’s shortcomings would be the most obvious. It got a lot of attention, and orders, but it’s proving to be a tougher call than he ever guessed. They’re assembling these Veyron-style, and stating that parts will be replaced down the line …

    A small, Neighborhood Vehicle+++ platform was easily within his reach, but that wasn’t sexy enough.
    Strange, PayPal grew big on small amounts being transacted — imagine if it had limited itself to a USD1000 minimum. :-)
    Ford grew big on …

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    In other words, the EVs that exist, that have the range and that are presently rolling on roads, are a figment of my imagination?

    Speaking for myself, I’m not counting glorified three-wheeled golf cart science projects as vehicles. At that point, you might as well ride a bicycle. Most consumers seem to share my view. As far as I understand, ZAP’s offerings aren’t taking the US by storm. Admittedly, neither will the Tesla Roadster. That’s because EVs aren’t there yet.

    And when they are, Ford and the others will be happy to bang them out. Why wouldn’t they? Once mass-market EVs are technically feasible, economically viable and profitable, and with a gas-strapped American public screaming for EVs, of course they will. And if one or two of the big boys are slow to get in the game, they’ll get killed in the marketplace by the others.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not by any means anti-EV. Quite the contrary. I’d love to own one myself. But the mass-market EV is still a few years off. Batteries still need increased energy density, longer life, faster recharges, and much lower price points. I’m sure they’ll get there, though. I’m guessing 5-15 years.

  • avatar

    We agree, Healthy-skeptic. If the smaller operations, such as Think EV, had been in place with an offering now, then they would have had many takers. They aligned themselves with Tesla, and paid a price as they’re now delayed to market.

    But there are EVs from the major automakers already, and as you state the game will change when these get serious. Mercedes’ claim that they will stop using ICE engines in the not too distant future is one pretty strong signal.

    I’d say 3-5 years, not 5-15.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    No existing solar panel 150 feet square can come CLOSE to producing that much energy. And in more than half the country it snows a lot. I’d say 15-30 years, by which time half of us will be dead.

  • avatar
    menno

    Mitsubishi announced the actual price of the MiEV (did I get that right) i-based electric Kei car in Japan next year, it will be about $38,000 at current exchange rates yen to US dollar. In other words, roughly 75% of the value of the electric car, is batteries.

    Told my wife this and she instantly “got it”. “OK so in the future, the average person won’t be able to afford a car.”

    She’s pretty darned smart, my Mrs.

  • avatar

    Mrs. Menno has clued in to the fact that the era of convenient, personal automotion is over.

    We can fight as much as we want against reduced speed limits and limited action-radius for our cars, it’s coming.
    In the future, we’ll treat easily available energy as the precious gift it is, and we’ll consider pissing it away taboo.

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/tesla-dead-ahead-the-automobiles-energy-lean-and-speed-restricted-future/

  • avatar
    jimble

    I’d love to own an electric car when (if) they’re ready for prime time. But one issue I’ve never seen addressed is how people who have to park their cars on the street are going to have access to electric power to recharge their batteries. That sounds like a massive infrastructure project and lately the U.S. has been awful at such things.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    In 30 years, a majority of all new cars produced in the United States, perhaps worldwide, will be electric

    That’s actually a not-unreasonable thing to say. A lot can happen in 30 years in terms of new production. There are other “experts” running around saying half of all existing cars will be electric in just 7 or 10 years. Those are the idiots.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    mel23 Says:

    As long as one of the battery packs doesn’t explode and kill somebody, this guy doesn’t seem to be doing any harm. Lightening a few wallets, but the buyers of his stuff can afford it. One thing can be said for him which is that he gets a hell of lot of publicity for what he has. Keeping interest going in battery-powered cars can be a good thing, and buyers of a real product, from Toyota for example, will be ready when such arrives. I’m starting to appreciate him.

    But what all of this “harmlessness” does is erode the trust in business ventures, and makes legitimate future business ventures more difficult to get off the ground.

    Which is a bad thing for economies, national and personal.

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