Elon Musk is one of the most exciting men in the tech world right now. As CEO of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, Musk hopes to change the way the world gets from place to place by introducing ubiquitous electric cars and reusable rockets. On Wednesday night, he took the stage at All Things D’s D11 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., to discuss his experimental ideas.
According to Musk’s conversation with All Things D’s Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, not only does Tesla plan to introduce a $30,000 electric car within five years, but the company also wants to triple its long-range Supercharger network as well.
Right now, Tesla’s cars are too expensive for the average consumer, but Musk said he hopes to produce a $30,000 Tesla in “probably 3-5 years.”
“Every new technology needs three or so iterations to get to the mass market,” Musk said. “Remember the cell phone from ‘Wall Street?’ It was expensive and terrible. And now you can have a supercomputer in your pocket for 100 bucks. Also, the car will probably be 20 percent smaller than the Model S, and an order of magnitude bigger production.”
For Musk, creating the electric car was simply a matter of filling a niche that seemed extremely obvious. After “Who Killed the Electric Car” showed that a portion of consumers desperately wanted a viable electric car, he was determined to give it to them.
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“Existing carmakers were not doing it themselves," Musk noted. "General Motors recalled its EV1s, took them to a junkyard and crushed them while people held a candlelight vigil. There’s a lesson: If people hold a candlelight vigil, maybe you shouldn’t cancel your product.”
Musk said not only will Tesla be profitable without government subsides by the time he introduces a more affordable, but that he believes that point will come at the end of 2013. Tesla is expected to increase its gross margins by 25 percent by then, all without the help of government subsides.
According to Musk, other car companies have written Tesla off, but he anticipates that in time, Tesla will come to be equally respected among major car brands.
“They had written off the Tesla Roadster as a niche product for techno-geeks, but we’ve moved beyond that,” Musk explained. “After the Roadster, so many people called bulls--t on the Model S it was ridiculous, but then we brought it to market, but then they said you’ll never make a profit, and then we did that. So I hope they will observe there is a trend here.”
Musk notes that not only does he hope to improve the Tesla’s affordability, but also increase its range as well. Though he planned to let the announcement slip until Thursday, Musk let it slip that he plans to triple the Tesla Supercharger network, allowing drivers to take more long-range drives than ever before. “You’ll be able to drive from L.A. to New York just using the Supercharger network,” Musk said.
As for SpaceX, Musk said that one of his biggest goals is developing a fully reusable rocket to make space travel more cost efficient and affordable.
“The challenge now is reusability," he said. "In order to have a breakthrough you have to have a fully reusable rocket. We’re hopeful to have it in the first stage in the next couple years and that’s three-quarters of the cost."
Later in Musk’s presentation, All Things D opened up the floor for audience questions, and Musk explained the basic principle behind his “Hyperloop” idea -- a proposed system of mass transit between Los Angeles and San Francisco that should be faster and cheaper than high-speed rail.
“The high-speed rail that’s been proposed will be the slowest bullet train in the world and the most expensive, and it’s a little depressing,” Musk said. “Even if I’m wrong about the economic assumptions behind the Hyperloop, it would be a really fun ride. It’s a cross between a Concorde and a rail gun and an air hockey table.”
Sounds bizarre, but Musk didn’t elaborate too much further.
Watch the full video of Musk's interview below.