If Elon Musk gets his way and his electric car company succeeds in buying the solar company SolarCity, Tesla will not just mean fancy electric vehicles (EVs). It will mean energy. Home battery storage. Solar panels on your roof. A wider variety of affordable Tesla vehicles driving the streets, increasingly without drivers — including a forthcoming Tesla Semi.
The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good.
This corporate pivot was not wholly unexpected. On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Tesla had changed the name of its official corporate website from teslamotors.com to tesla.com — potentially signaling a shift in direction from an auto company to to an energy company that also makes vehicles.
Musk tweeted first on Tuesday that he planned to “pull an all-nighter and complete the master product plan” and also that it seemed “appropriate” that he was listening to the soundtrack from the film The Great Gatsby.
Late Wednesday night, Musk tweeted a link to Tesla’s “Master Plan, Part Deux.”
Musk starts out reminding readers that the initial Master Plan, written 10 years ago, included “providing solar power,” after a ladder-like series of goals focused on electric vehicle production, innovation, and revolution. Tesla first wanted to get good at producing a fancy, amazing EV, and then using those profits to produce more and more EVs that might be less expensive and fancy but still were better than the competition.
The plan then gets to the part where Musk explains what this has really been all about:
However, the main reason was to explain how our actions fit into a larger picture, so that they would seem less random. The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what “sustainable” means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone.
By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.
In the past, Musk has called for a carbon tax, and a “revolt” against the fossil fuel industry because of his concerns about climate change. He’s called uncapped greenhouse gas emissions “the dumbest experiment in history.”
So it’s not surprising that Musk feels this way, but to so clearly state the goals behind Tesla’s master plan as a sustainable world and cutting carbon emissions is notable.
Musk then proceeds to explain in the plan “what we plan to do to make that day come sooner.”
The first goal is to “integrate energy generation and storage” by allowing an individual to become their own utility. Using SolarCity’s pv panel technology and installation capabilities, he envisions a “smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works.” This would be easy to order through a phone app. Last year, Tesla unveiled the Powerwall home battery system, which aimed “to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy” by making it easier to adopt widespread renewable energy. Storage is the only currently feasible way to dramatically scale up the use of renewable energy, which does not always provide a steady source of power, and maintain reliability.
Tesla Wants To Sell You An Electric Car, And The Solar Panel To Run ItClimate by CREDIT: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Tesla, the famed electric vehicle automaker, could soon get into the…thinkprogress.orgMusk explains in the plan that it never made sense for the two companies to be separate in the first place. “Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together,” he concludes.
If SolarCity can expand its market share in enough states to become a serious player in the utility and power sector, the goal, it seems, would be to integrate their solar systems into the networks of Tesla owners with their very own home Powerwalls. Far enough down the road it’s possible to see a functioning vertically-integrated energy infrastructure provided by Tesla.
Practically speaking, this would mean you drive your Tesla electric vehicle and charge it up on your home battery, which is fueled by your SolarCity panels. Your home is also powered by the Powerwall home battery, making each homeowner into their own utility.
Beyond the energy infrastructure revolution Musk envisions, the master plan also details more about their planned vehicle fleet expansions, or in Musk’s words, how Tesla will “Expand to Cover the Major Forms of Terrestrial Transport.” This means a Tesla pickup truck, compact SUV, semi truck, and passenger bus, manufactured in an efficient factory redesigned by Tesla.
“We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate,” Musk said.
Beyond this, Tesla is doubling down on their quest to make vehicles entirely autonomous — primarily, Musk argues, for safety reasons. Getting this right is crucial for Tesla, after the first person was killed driving a Tesla with autopilot engaged late last month. If they can get this right, and actual self-driving is legal, Musk can then turn Tesla toward the final goal of the master plan: sharing.
He envisions a future where someone can go to their phone and summon a Tesla — like an Uber but without a driver — from anywhere in the neighborhood. Tesla owners who include their vehicles in the sharing program would “have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost.”
All of these goals put together mean that the new plan is to:
Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storageExpand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segmentsDevelop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learningEnable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it.
Tesla shipped 50,580 vehicles last year, and plans to ship 79,000 this year.