Anyone familiar with Elon Musk must be impressed with everything he has accomplished up until now. Simply stated, the man is a genius. He has produced what is arguably the best EV in the history of EVs in the Model S and his company is working diligently on bringing potentially the next great and affordable EV Model, the Tesla Model 3 to market. He has just launched a solar roofing project which could mean a giant leap in renewable energy and of course there is SpaceX. So why then do I make this prediction?
Greater men than Elon Musk have been brought down by their overconfidence and lack of realistic vision. Yes it’s important to dream but dreams are not a plan. And I don’t mean the vision of where he wants to take his EVs. I mean his vision in terms of the practicality of everything he’s trying to accomplish. The ability to raise capital is not a business plan. Despite the stock price, Tesla is bleeding money. No one ever addresses that very important and simple point. There is only so long that can happen before venture capitalists abandon ship. Much of the technological economy is based on the ability to raise capital and may in fact be leading us down the road towards the next great collapse of our economy. The stock market is nothing more than speculation; shooting darts at a dartboard and hoping you hit a bull’s-eye. That is of course unless you’re Gordon Gekko. Let’s look at a few of Musk’s visions and why they may be misguided.
While a huge fan of EVs, having owned one, the technology still does not exist to make them practical. To mainstream these vehicles, three things must happen, 1) they must be able to be fully charged in ten minutes or less, or better stated, the time it takes to fill a gas tank. In addition the number of charging stations must increase ten fold. We are simply not there yet, even in large cities. 2) The cost must come down considerably. While the new 3 series is supposed to cost around $37,000, before government incentives, that will be for a bare bones vehicle. Apparently a loaded 3 could cost in excess of $60,000, hardly affordable for the average family. Furthermore, the government isn’t going to be able to subsidize EVs indefinitely. Without those subsidies, sales would be even more lackluster than they are. Most importantly, despite the strong sales of the S, the car without incentives is a big loser. 3) Until the batteries are unaffected by extreme temperatures, cold or hot, their use in many parts of the country and the world, will be limited. The heating systems, heated seats and air conditioning negatively impact battery integrity.
Colonization of Mars is a dream, his dream but we are so far from the technology necessary to make that a reality, that it’s almost silly. Visiting the moon for a few days and arriving back on earth within a week is far different than dreaming about colonizing a planet that shouldn’t be colonized. Don’t get me wrong, I love space exploration, NASA and all that goes along with it but if we can’t travel to Mars in a month or less, we simply DO NOT have the technology necessary to make the journey. In addition, who wants to inhabit a planet with no air, no oceans, no life of any kind? No beauty, no animals and no ability to even take a walk or enjoy the outdoors without a protective suit. And finally we don’t yet have the technology to protect astronauts from the intense radiation of space. There is a very good chance that the astronauts would not even survive the journey. Finally, the colonization of MARS is a black hole of expenditures not a money generating venture.
The new solar tiles that he wants to install on homes will not in our lifetime amount to a sustainable business unless the cost can be brought down considerably. Electricity is still inexpensive enough to make the investment in private home solar panels, not worthwhile. Furthermore this technology is limited to states and countries where it doesn’t snow and or there is a minimum number of days with sunshine. Does the technology work in Seattle for example? While the wealthy will always buy into this type of technology much like purchasing the latest sports car, for the average homeowner, this technology is years if not decades from becoming widely utilized.
SpaceX – Simply put, I don’t know if this is a sustainable business model. It’s beyond my knowledge and I’m unsure as to whether anyone understands the viability of SpaceX. Perhaps this will be a profitable business down the road. Too soon to tell.
In closing, you have to admire Elon Musk’s desire to dream and to change the world but just like the flying car, most of the technology he believes will change the world will only change the world for the wealthiest among us and that includes rides into space. I only wonder how long all of the capital required to keep each of these projects moving forward will last. Can they continue without showing at least some promise of turning a profit? Although one of the more successful dreamers to date, at some point the dreams need to become realities. The realities of profit and practicality.