Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Musk's Sucker Punch


Back in 2015... "Elon Musk walks briskly onto the stage as hard rock blasts in the background. The guitar riff, which sounds like entrance music suitable for a professional wrestler or a minor-league cleanup hitter, fades out, and Musk surveys the crowd, nodding his head a few times and then sticking his hands in his pockets. "What I’m going to talk about tonight," he says, "is a fundamental transformation of how the world works."

The 44-year-old CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX (and the chairman of the solar energy provider SolarCity) is wearing a dark shirt, a satin-trimmed sports coat, and, at this moment, a knowing smirk. An admirer of Steve Jobs, Musk is an heir to the Silicon Valley titan in some psychic sense, but in a setting like this, he’d never be mistaken for the Apple founder.

Jobs worked the stage methodically, with somber reverence and weighty pauses, holding tightly choreographed events on weekday mornings for maximum media impact. Musk’s events, which are generally held at the press-¬unfriendly hour of 8 p.m. Pacific time, have a more ad hoc feel. His manner is geeky and puckish. He pantomimes and rephrases, rolls his eyes, and cracks one joke after another—his capacity for expression barely keeping pace with the thoughts in his head.

Musk begins by showing an image of thick yellow smoke pouring out of a series of giant industrial chimneys, contrasted with the Keeling Curve, the famous climate-change chart that shows more than 50 years of carbon dioxide levels soaring toward a near-certain calamity. It could be mistaken for something out of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. "I just want to be clear," Musk says, with a nervous giggle, his accent betraying his boyhood in South Africa. "This is real."

His comments on this April evening, in front of a raucous crowd of Tesla owners (and some reporters) at the company’s design studio in Hawthorne, California, are quintessential Musk—weighty but also a bit cheeky. They’re also just preamble. His electric-¬car manufacturer is launching a new product line: large batteries that store energy in homes and even larger batteries that do the same for utilities and businesses.

The Powerwall, a slender appliance designed to be mounted in your garage, comes in five colors and starts at $3,000; the Powerpack, an 8-foot-tall steel box that looks a bit like a utility transformer, is aimed at the energy industry and costs roughly $25,000. These prices are roughly half of what competing battery manufacturers charge.

"The issue with existing batteries is that they suck," Musk says. "They’re expensive. They’re unreliable. They’re stinky. Ugly. Bad in every way." The idea is to pair the new Tesla products with solar panels—either on the rooftops of homes or in large-scale solar farms—that will store energy during the day, when the sun is shining, so that it can be used in our homes, for free, at night instead of energy from power plants that produce greenhouse gases.

Musk thinks it just might be the key to solving the problem of global warming. He explains that if the city of Boulder, Colorado, population 103,000, bought a mere 10,000 Powerpacks and paired them with solar panels, it could eliminate its dependence on conventional power plants entirely. The U.S. could do the same with only 160 million of them. Then he offers even higher figures: 900 million Powerpacks, with solar panels, would allow us to decommission all the world’s carbon-emitting power plants; 2 billion would wean the world off gasoline, heating oil, and cooking gas as well.

"That may seem like an insane number," says Musk, but he points out that there are 2 billion cars on the road today, and every 20 years that fleet gets replaced. "The point I want to make is that this is actually within the power of humanity to do. It’s not impossible."

... Musk's Gigafactory will be unveiled soon.

(If you are interested in reading more of Max Chafkin's factory article go to: https://www.fastcompany.com/3052889/elon-musk-powers-up-inside-teslas-5-billion-gigafactory)

2 comments:

Dennis said...

Two billion cars on the road. An amazing stat. The destination of a thousand miles starts with the first step. It really is a matter of life or death for this planet. Some call it the 6th extinction. Sure there is no global warming. Two billion cars and trucks on the road, replaced every 20 years.

... said...

It is absolutely shocking isn't it, and a bit crazy!!