Elon Musk has been a hero of mine for several years, and his recent TED talk in February reminded me why. For the uninitiated, Musk is the creator of PayPal – the first business to make a real splash in online payments. After PayPal, Musk went on to found Tesla Motors, a leading North American electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer; Solar City, an innovative distributed solar utility in California striving to bring solar power to American households; and SpaceX, a company that designs, builds and launches space rockets using advanced technologies.
In this profound TED talk, Musk describes his personal and business missions with Tesla, Solar City and SpaceX. Some of the highlights from a Long Bottom Line perspective are as follows:
- EVs are a substantially more carbon efficient transportation method than combustion engine vehicles, even if the electricity grid utilities the EVs plug into are powered by fossil fuels. He hopes to have a mass market EV model produced in several years.
- Musk has placed a personal bet that solar power will be the most widely-used form of energy within two decades.
- An appropriate financing model (the Solar City approach) can lower household energy costs without requiring the homeowner to purchase solar panels – these become capital assets of the company, funded through bank debt financing.
- Space exploration as it is currently practiced is a very wasteful practice – the cost for each rocket launched into space can exceed one billion dollars, and these rockets are completely expendable (i.e., they are only used once). Musk’s goal is to create a reusable rocket that re-enters earth’s atmosphere and lands in one piece – allowing it to cost almost 100 times less than typical launches.
This is a fascinating talk, please enjoy.