Tesla: The World’s Most Interesting Company

Image taken from MotorTrend

Being someone who has spent their entire life in the Silicon Valley, watching huge technological change was something I thought would no longer enamor me. I live ten minutes from where the iPhone was created. I pass the Google campus on my daily commute. My best friend works at Facebook. So forgive me for saying, I thought I had seen it all. Then Tesla came along.

For those living under a rock or who quit the internet five years ago, Tesla is a company that, at its core, manufactures electric cars. While the idea seems derivative, there is much more to Tesla than meets the eye. Tesla’s visionary CEO, Elon Musk (you can watch this video about his interesting life), has outlined a plan for the company in two blog posts known as “The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan” and “Master Plan, Part Deux” and they are, to be quite honest, fascinating to read. The first part was posted on the website ten years ago and is nearing completion while the second part was posted just a few weeks ago and is in its early stages. If you want to go ahead and read those two plans feel free to do so, but in the remainder of this post, I will be picking out points from these posts to analyze and looking at the implications of what Tesla is doing for the world around us.

Let’s start by taking a look at the first part, most of which has already been done. Tesla started off by creating a high-end electric sports car, the Roadster, that could match up with supercars made by the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. The logic behind this was that, due to the small scale production, their cars were going to have to be expensive anyways so better to make a nice sports car rather than some middle-class Volvo (no offense to Volvo they make great cars). The goal was that the sales from this vehicle would allow for R&D on a car that would be a bit cheaper and sold on a slightly larger scale: The Model S. This car changed the face of Tesla, earning a perfect score from Consumer Reports, breaking the NHTSA rating system, accelerating as fast as a McLaren P1, and earning all around praise from everyone(including competitors in the industry). However, as per the master plan, making a car this awesome wasn’t enough for the good people of Tesla Motors.

At this point there is a slight deviation from the Master Plan in the creation of a falcon-winged-door SUV known as the Model X. I feel like there isn’t much more to this other than Tesla wanting to hit another market segment. Don’t take this to mean that it’s any worse than the Model S because it’s not. However, for the purposes of looking at the plan’s larger impact, this car isn’t too important so lets move on.

The third part of the plan was to use the money made from Model S to build an even more affordable car that could be mass produced. This car, known as the Model 3, was recently announced and has not been released to the public yet. However, its announcement generated a level of craze we haven’t seen from any other company apart from Apple, bringing in a ridiculous amount of preorders. While the car’s success remains to be seen, it’s safe to say Tesla is on the right track again.

The final part of the initial Master Plan was to “provide zero emission electric power generation options” and that promise has also been delivered on. The Powerwall is Tesla’s answer to efficient storage of energy at home. Combined with recently acquired SolarCity’s solar panels, the two could be a lethal combination in getting more and more people off the grid. So all in all, the Master Plan part one has proven to be a smashing success, but it also begs a question: What’s next?

This is where “Part Deux” comes into the picture. In this plan, everything is being taken to another level in terms of scale, production, and ambition. The plan starts off by stating that Tesla will be more focused on creating “stunning” solar roof’s that seamlessly integrate with the Powerwall battery storage system. This seems fairly predictable given the acquisition and what was stated about providing electric power options in the previous plan. Musk goes on to state that the Tesla Motors product line will be expanded “to address most of the consumer market” by adding in a compact SUV and a pickup truck. Once again, this was expected although a pickup truck from Tesla is fun to imagine.

This wouldn’t be Tesla if there weren’t a few interesting announcements up their sleeve and the last two points definitely deliver. One of Tesla’s big developments with the Model S was the Autopilot system. While there have been a few unfortunate accidents, Musk maintains that the feature is better at driving than humans. In this plan, he promises that Tesla engineers will continue to improve Autopilot until it is ten times better than the current vehicle safety average. The ultimate goal is to have a completely autonomous system where the car can continue to function even if part of the system is damaged. Autonomous freeway driving and summoning of Tesla cars have captured the imagination of consumers, so seeing improvements in those systems should be really exciting.

The final, and most captivating, part of the plan involves creating an Uber-like fleet of Tesla cars. While this in itself is not something new, there is a twist: the cars won’t have any drivers. Musk states that most people use their cars for a fraction of the day so it would make sense that they be used elsewhere instead of sitting around in a garage. He states that the simple press of a button on an app will allow you to add your Tesla to the fleet and when you need the car again, you can summon it and resume life as normal. The best part is the entire process will generate money for you, thus dramatically reducing the cost of ownership. If you want to hear more about the next steps in the second part of the plan, you can hear Elon Musk himself talk about it at the launch of the Tesla Gigafactory.

There are a lot of things to note in both of these blog posts. First is Tesla’s transparency with their vision. This has quickly becoming one of the company’s defining traits as they also released their patents a few years back to promote healthy competition and accelerate growth of the electric car market. I find that in an era of secrecy and manipulative tactics, this is a refreshing take on business. It also shows the confidence that Tesla and Musk have in the quality of their products. On a global scale, there is a clear vision forming in Tesla’s push for a more environmentally-friendly world. The electric cars and the solar panels will both have positive impacts on the environment. The main criticism is the effect the batteries and their production will have on the environment, but Musk has addressed those concerns by putting in place a battery recycling program and producing all of Tesla’s batteries from hundred percent renewable energy at the new Gigafactory. There is much more that can be said about Tesla and I will likely write many more posts about them in the future. For now, let’s enjoy and marvel at what has quickly become the most interesting company in the world.

-Please leave me some comments, I would love to hear what you think or any other suggestions you might have.

For more information on Tesla, check out these videos from ColdFusionTV:

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