Most people who keep up on Tesla news or Elon Musk know about the Secret Master Plan Part I. Then in July 2016, Part Deux was unveiled. Much was written. Responses ran the gamut from enthusiastic to underwhelmed. People tend to look at simply stated ideas as simple, so it’s unsurprising that nearly everyone missed the big picture. Maybe that’s where the secret comes in. To catch those of you up who haven’t read the master plan, the 4 pieces of Part Deux were:
- 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
Those are 4 simple points, but as I lay out my thoughts below I think you’ll agree, the “Secret Master Plan” is much more than a simple idea about transportation and renewable energy. It’s actually a blueprint. It’s a blueprint with the words “How to Build a Time Machine” stamped prominently across the top. Don’t be disappointed if you missed it. Nearly everyone did.
Money via time travel
Very few people realize that we have already discovered time travel. We do it every day. Here are a couple of sentences from Bloomberg’s Matt Levine that provide one example. “The essence of finance is time travel. Saving is about moving resources from the present into the future; financing is about moving resources from the future back into the present.” Simple and beautiful. Self driving electric cars will function in a similar way by moving clean energy from the future into the present.
How we use cars
In the U.S. we use cars for everything. Ours is not a walkable society. The average person in the U.S. drove 13,476 miles1 in 2015. That’s a lot of miles, but it’s almost nothing compared to an Uber or Lyft driver working 18 hours per day. That sort of work schedule would be brutal for a person but is quite reasonable for a computer. Uber drivers travel about 20 miles every hour.2 NYC taxis clock around 400,000 miles before being sold off to other fleets in their golden years.3 Putting that together, a self driving car could hit its lifetime mileage in 3 years. However, if an individual driving an electric car were to try and put 400,000 miles on a car, it would take her 30 years, ten times longer than a self driving vehicle.
Tesla’s time machine
A car that drives itself, is a time machine. An autonomous vehicle is continuously making trips to the future. When it returns to the present, it brings with it hundreds of miles per day. Instead of an individual driving a car 400,000 miles over 30 years, a self driving vehicle does it in 3. Another way to think about it is 9 days of future miles brought back to the present every single day.
Electric vehicles are even better. They bring back renewable energy powered miles. By 2017, Tesla will have added solar panel manufacturing capabilities to complement their car and battery manufacturing portfolio. That nearly guarantees that every fleet owned and operated by Tesla will be powered by the sun. So really a Tesla time machine would not be bringing back mileage from the future. A Tesla time machine would bring us clean energy from the future.
What if Tesla doesn’t get there first?
Make a list of big tech companies, big car companies and big car company suppliers and you still only have a small fraction of the companies working on self driving vehicles. The odds don’t look good for Tesla being the first to have a fully functional self driver. Not to worry, even if Tesla doesn’t get there first, the autonomous vehicles of tomorrow will still be solar powered. First, EVs are tens of thousands of dollars cheaper to fuel than gasoline powered vehicles. So EVs would be the first choice. Secondly, self driving fleet operators could use grid power, which is only composed of about 30% clean energy,4 but that would be far more expensive than self generation. Solar energy is now less expensive than just the transmission and distribution costs of the grid. Really it all boils down to economics. Electric cars are cheaper than gas powered cars. Solar is cheaper than the grid. To be a competitive operator of a self driving fleet, you will have to use EVs powered by the sun.
Tesla Master Plan Part Deux – condensed
Let’s bring it back to where we started, the Master Plan. Mr. Musk is brilliant and he has thousands of brilliant people working with him. Part Deux was meant to be an easily understandable press release to share the Tesla vision and engage the masses. It worked.
Having said that, I would like to take a shot at condensing all 4 points of the Secret Master Plan Part Deux into just one sentence. It’s less accessible but a bit more fun. The plan?
Develop a time machine to fight global warming.
It’s an ambitious goal, but I have faith that the mad scientists at Tesla are just the ones to make it happen. I’m sure Doc Brown has a lab deep in Tesla headquarters and is working on the problem this very minute!
The Next Step
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At ButItJustMightWork, we strive to make your life more fun, more convenient and more affordable with clean energy.
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