Last month, Tesla dropped the ‘Motors’ from its name, sending out a tsunamic wave of speculation across the online tech and news sphere. Shortly after, low and behold, Musk reveals his Master Plan, Part Deux (a cheeky reference to Hot Shots! Part Deux), the first of several ‘big reveals’ Tesla and Musk have made in the past month.
A decade ago (in 2006), Musk revealed his first Master Plan, coyly titled ‘The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan’. Contrary to what’s being said about it currently, this plan didn’t outline some great plot and timeline for Tesla Motors, nor did it go into any deep detail about what the plan was.
Instead, Musk addressed the two big issues facing electric vehicles (EVs) at the time; the need for batteries to be non-toxic to the environment and ‘The Long Tailpipe’, i.e. EVs aren’t truly green, as the power plants generating the electricity to charge them are burning fossil fuels.
At the end of the article, his plan, which has shaped so much of the past decade, is summed up in comic simplicity as;
Build sports car
Use that money to build an affordable car
Use that money to build an even more affordable car
While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Don't tell anyone.
You would half expect a little in there.
In Part Deux, Musk gives the lay of the land a whole ten years after he first set out to revolutionize the automotive industry. He states that Part ‘Un’ was necessary to “explain how our actions fit into a larger picture”, and that “the point of all this (the creation of Tesla and executing Master Plan Part One) was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good”.
He then launches into a fully fleshed, ambitious, transformative Master Plan, covering Tesla’s plan for ‘Energy Generation and Storage’, the expansion of the Tesla Fleet to include ‘Major Forms of Terrestrial Transport’ and ‘Autonomy’ and ‘Sharing’.
Opening with his intention for Tesla to deliver a “smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works”, he iterates that eventually we’ll see this complimentary system “throughout the world”. Solar empowerment taken to a level unseen in human history! He states that Tesla is ready and able to scale its Powerwall product to a global level and that since SolarCity is capable of providing highly differentiated solar, “the time has come to bring them together”. The addition of batteries to households with solar panels will help immensely, allowing the Powerwall to bridge the ‘dark gaps’ where the demand for power is high, but the sun doesn’t shine. Integrating battery storage with solar is the next logical step, and will negate the readily flaunted downside of solar.
Regarding the expansion of the Tesla fleet, he stresses the importance of scaled up EV production. Recognizing the current high price of EVs (even Tesla’s own ‘affordable’ option is out of the price range of the majority of people), he explains that Tesla engineering has shifted focus from the cars to the “machine that makes the machine”. The idea, he says, is to “[turn] the factory itself into a product”. Hence, the Gigafactory (above), but more on that another day!
He also makes mention of two vehicles that are “in the early stages of development” and yet should be ready for unveiling next year (an example of the kind of accelerated timeline he is working at). The first is a heavy duty EV; the Tesla Semi, and the other is a “high passenger-density urban transport”.
While it’s still a big unknown what the technology will be that facilitates the transition from Combustion Engine Vehicles (CEVs) to Heavy Duty EVs like the Tesla Semi (right) and the urban transport vehicle, if they are successful it will be an incredible, game-changing achievement.
Equally, the idea of an autonomous EV fleet, like Uber on steroids, sounds like it’s straight out of a science fiction novel, and yet we could be less than a decade away from seeing it become a reality. In fact, Tesla is deploying partial autonomy now. Musk states that, “When used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves” justifying its use today by saying “it would be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability”. Ride sharing will allow you to make money with your Tesla while you’re not using it, cut down on the number of vehicles in use, cut down on the cost of owning and using a vehicle and reduce traffic density at potentially an incredible rate. He even caps it all off by stating, “In cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars, Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.”
Is it ambitious? Yes, at a scale of only Musk’s proportion. He rounds out his Master Plan with a summation;
“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"
He ticked all the boxes from his last plan. In ten years’ time, I think we’ll see him do the same with these. Godspeed Elon!