What Questions Would You Ask Tesla's Elon Musk?

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'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on red carpet

'Revenge of the Electric Car' premiere: Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on red carpet

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It's probably safe to say that many readers of this site would love to sit down for a chat with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk.

While he's known for tweeting about the company--and autographing owners' Model S cars at publicity events--Musk is a pretty busy guy.

While he can be refreshingly blunt in some of his assessments about the company, his job as CEO requires presenting a rosy picture of its future.

Which is why we enjoyed reading Alex Taylor's "9 Questions For Tesla's Elon Musk" in Fortune.

Taylor didn't actually talk to Musk to ask him the questions, mind you.

Instead, the article poses theoretical queries about the future of Tesla Motors, from the point of view of a skeptical veteran who's covered the auto industry for many, many years.

Our favorite question is, "Every other [electric car] manufacturer is struggling; are you really that much better?"

We suspect Musk might answer, "Yes" and wait for the next question.

If he didn't hang up the phone, anyhow.

But it got us thinking: What would you ask Musk?

Leave your questions in the Comments below, and if they're interesting--and would advance our coverage of Tesla and its cars--perhaps we'll try to get them answered.

Tell us what you think of Taylor's questions too, while you're at it.

Over to you, dear readers.


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Comments (74)
  1. Do you think down the road the US charging standard that you failed to use will turn and use what you are using or will you make yours compatible with theirs.

  2. That is probably an easy thing to answer. If there is a standard, Tesla will add support for that standard with an adapter(if possible). They won't make the superchargers compatible though.

    Take Europe and Japan, Telsa has the CHAdeMo adapter for those countries. (And yes they plan to do superchargers in other countries)

    In US, Tesla includes SAE J1772 adapter(which is earlier revision of the standard your talking about though it only charges at level 2 speeds(up to 80A, up to 240V)).

    So the answer is most likely yes unless there is a technical limitation.

  3. "I thought you were great in Iron Man. Any new movie plans in the works?"

  4. I think a better question would be, is there going to be some Tesla Model S featured in movies. I mean iron man is still riding an audi, he needs to update to the latest trend.

  5. I can see Tesla S being the next James Bond car... :)

  6. Elon, you've mentioned designing the hyper loop via Wiki. That's a lot above most of our heads, but I'd love to have the opportunity to give some design input on a future Tesla model.

    When can I buy a ticket on the electric sonic jet?

    Finally, when can we see you put in a bid for the double decker Lego 405 freeway? LA might be a city living in between that and the hyperloop. But I'll settle for a Model S in my hometown. Keep up the great work elevating humanity!

  7. Does Elon Musk view Tesla as a car company that is purely battery-electric or would Tesla consider alternative green electrification options such as hydrogen fuel cells?

  8. To reduce the suspense, here's Elon from a 2008 PBS interview: " The fuel cell will never ever, ever, ever be a mainstay." Maybe he has changed his mind. You think?

  9. Musk answered this before, he is not going to do fuel cells or hybrids and etc. The 2 things he sees the most future for is batteries and ultracapacitators.

  10. I get the impression Mr Musk is far to sensible and well-read to be even tempted by the H2 fuel cell thing. He has probably read http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000037332/The-Emperors-New-Hydrogen-Economy.aspx ... sounds like you should too!

  11. Of all the research into new battery technologies currently underway, which do you see as the most promising for lowering the cost of EV's and why?

  12. There are those of us who believe the key to EVs is "The Better Battery." I believe someone has to lead this development who has a vision not based on greed or self service. So far, that person hasn't mustered in and I believe the movement to clean energy and a better World for our children is as high a priority as life itself.

    Elon: Are you the person who will lead this development?

  13. My question would be: "What is the most promising lightweighting technology that you are evaluating excluding batteries, and how much weight will it pull from your vehicles?"

  14. Are there any other adjacent businesses you've considered applying Tesla's technology to (e.g. watercraft, aircraft, military/aerospace)?

  15. Tesla's model s batteries are used in the Space X Dragon and Solarcity batteries.

  16. The questions I'd like to ask are:

    Will the winter package be available in the US? if so, when?

    Matte lcd option?

    How about video while not driving?

    Can you update the goelectric portal with latest 2012 numbers? 2009 numbers are pretty old.

    Can you disclose the emissions that go into manufacturing of the battery to finally put all the guessing to rest?

    You said that your going to let someone else take care of the hyperloop. But lets say it is 2020-2025 and every new car being sold is an EV and Tesla makes up a major share of the entire market. And at this time, nobody made the hyperloop yet. Assuming you havent moved to mars, will you get into it?

    And on the topic of hyperloop and space x. What do you think of the startram?

  17. I would ask him if he plans to keep Tesla manufacturing 100% in the US... I figure that many ships go back to China partially empty... I am sure he could save in shipping to China!

  18. Based on previous things said, he plans to open a factory in Europe to make the cars in Europe to save on import tariffs. I don't know about china, but the car will be made in other places to be sold locally.

  19. So when are you going to use a flying suite to get to work, Elon?

  20. I read the 9 Questions article and Alex's tone seems pretty back-handed and disengenuous. I wish some of these critical reporters would start a new car company, refurbish an empty factory, hire people in a depressed industry and produce cars that everyone loves. They could also take on entrenched special interests like NADA, help reduce air pollution and roll out a new national charging infrastructure.

    But, if they had any real talent or ambition, they probably wouldn't be reporters who are too lazy to do any research.

  21. @Bret: The only reason this site exists is because of reporters, so go easy there!

    More seriously, at least some of the Qs Taylor raises seem valid given that Musk is attempting to do something that was last successfully done in 1924: start a car company from scratch whose brand survives.

    So I'm curious: What research should Taylor have done that he didn't? Specific links will help.

  22. His pollution-credit question is nonsense; asked and answered. His Supercharger question is pointless; they don't need "attendants" His residual question is pointless: Of course it's good business. His battery / Gen III question is answered on this web site, this past week. His "are you really that much better"? question is obvious. Of course they are. They sell as well as the Leaf, despite costing 2-3x as much. It's winning every award on earth. What planet is the guy on?

  23. @John, I have a personal finance blog and I understand completely all of the hard work that goes into creating a good article. The 9 Questions article was not only poorly written, it seemed biased and inacurate. Mark has already covered most of the items that I disagreed with. But, worst of all was the negative bias towards what is a huge success story. If you are doing a personal Op Ed, don't try to disguise it as analysis. If you are doing analysis, then check some facts. That is why I used the phrase "lazy reporter".

  24. I'd ask him if it was a mistake dividing up his time and money between Tesla and Space-X. If he had it to do over again would he just concentrate on mass producing affordable electric cars like he said he wanted to do?

  25. His answer would probably be no, he would still do both. The limitations right now is on battery prices and advancement in technology. So it is unlikely that a mass produced car would come quicker then planned due to him putting his time into 1 thing. It is a matter of timing. Plus, its not like musk comes in and single handily does everything himself.

    As far as money goes, while he spent a lot of his money, people overestimate how much money a person has. Most of the money that went into Space X and Tesla is VC money. The only thing his money helped was keep it going during poor financial times but it would not have effected anything.

  26. Elon,

    Have you considered collaborating with the public transportation sector? Gillig buses are just up the road from your manufacturing plant (Hayward v. Fremont) and your company's battery technology would be an ideal option to the other buses on the market. All other us manufacturers are using Provincial (Canada) or Federal incentives to manufacture plug-in buses, so there is potential to pursue California or Federal incentives.

    Will you be creating a station wagon variant of the Gen III vehicle you are proposing to build in 2016 for the masses? Will you be equipping it with all wheel drive? Will you offer a reasonable lease option?

    Lastly, will you offer Tesla brand coffee kiosks at your supercharger stations?

  27. Correction: "All other bus manufacturers..."

  28. The Gen III will have a sedan and an SUV.

    I definitely think they should use them in buses, delivery trucks and taxis. If you actually do the math, it is cheaper to use a 90k Tesla Model S as a Taxi then a 25k gasoline car.

  29. you have build a luxury sport car, a luxury sedan, and change the way people now see city/hiway cars!
    why not make something for the all terrain, desert, mountain, off road people? some kind of baja/buggy/jeep EV from scratch, and change the world once again!

  30. Elon, despite the nay-sayers, you've made a great company and great products in the automotive industry. If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

    Elon, some are labelling Tesla as 'the next Apple'. Do you see this positively?

  31. My questions? How he manages to successfully juggle his companies and navigate them through all the obstacles. On the surface his achievements are remarkable. Under the surface though you start seeing armies of the status quo doing everything they can to sabotage him. Whether it be in space, in the solar industries, autos, planes, trains, or even highways. I'd like to know how he does it and duplicate it in my much simpler life.

  32. I don't quite see the armies in the status quo working against SpaceX. Quite the opposite: after the successful 1st flight of Dragon to ISS, he explicitly thanked NASA for sharing so much knowledge and expertise with SpaceX.

  33. Elon

    You have personally involved yourself in the conceptual to completion of 2 rockets, a spacecraft and 2 cars (With a third on the way). What do you think is harder to do, build a good car or build a good spaceship?

  34. As has been said many times, Elon is a real visionary. What is his One Vision, to rule them all...?

  35. Would your company every consider building a retractable hardtop version of the Roadster, and with AWD? That would be an awesome year round car.

  36. Can Tesla make and sell a good small car, the size of a Ford Focus or Honda Civic, for less than $25k?

  37. Yes, around 2020-2022, I'd wager. It'll probably be a "city car" with something close to 200 miles of range and be designed to sell 500K - 1 million units annually.

  38. By 2020-2022 that will already be unnecessary. At that point you will have 500 mile EVs from Tesla at 35k or less.

    A 35k gen III when factoring in fuel costs and amintenance cost is cheaper then a 25k gas car. But even without that, 35k - 7.5k(tax credit) = 27.5k

  39. 1/ When is Tesla going to produce a motorcycle?

    2/ When will Tesla supply either a complete drive train package or one or more standard 18650 cell-based battery packs for niche EV builders?

  40. You can look at Zero motorcycles right now. They can be had for a fifth of a tesla S

  41. 1) In shareholder meeting, he was asked this question and he didn't seem interested at the moment. I hear some ex-Tesla engineers started up mission-motorcycles which has some pretty decent performance motorcycles.

    2) Considering they are licensing the drivetrain to other companies, I don't know if they will go that route.

  42. I would love to convert an ICE classic to an EV and Tesla's "skateboard" battery pack + controller would really make it sing. EV hobbyists would go crazy!

  43. My biggest question for Tesla is why are they insisting on doing their own thing when it comes to connectors...why do they accept government loans yet refuse to honior the J1772 SAE Connector stabdards that are being used for public charging infrastructure? Doesn't this recalcitance on Tesla's part undermine the entire PEV industry and attempts to provide investments in public charging? Should they be eligible for US federal and state rebates if they undermine the industry?

  44. I read somewhere that Elon had tried to participate in the SAE talks, but they dismissed his input and insisted on the huge combo connector.

    I also hate all of the fast charger standards and would like to see a clear winner. From what I see, Renault's fast AC adapter makes the most sense to me. It uses the existing Level 2 plug and the charging stations cost half as much as the DC stations.

  45. The Tesla Model S supports the J1772 SAE connector via an adapter that comes with the car. It supports the level 2 charging at least, as far as level 3 goes, no clue. With that said, each Tesla owner pays 2k to use the superchargers so I am pretty sure they won't appreciate other EVs using it for free.

    The biggest issue is Tesla is ahead of the industry. As long as Tesla supports the standard with an adapter, what does it matter?

    Also, Tesla paid off the loan with interest. And as I mentioned above, the infrastructure is paid by Tesla owners. Not 1 penny of the loan was used for superchargers.

  46. Any plans on making a fully ready Plug'n'Play modules for IC->EV conversions?

  47. Considering that Musk is against even ICE/EV hybrids, unlikely.

  48. My question would be about the disruptive nature of doing long range EVs supported by a supercharger network the use of which is free for life.

    My hunch about basically proposing a future in which automotive fuels are for free is that it is a bit like going to the bad part of town and offering highly addictive substances for free; your friendly local crack dealer is bound to have an opinion about that.

    So Elon Musk aren't you worried about that effect? Could it be that a lot of the opposition/FUD reporting/dealer lawsuits you have to deal with are to do with powerful vested interests activating their network to throw spanners in Tesla's works? Could even Iron Man take on the oil companies?

  49. I love your Model S and I will buy one soon. My wife falls asleep in any moving vehicle in five minutes. I have asked if it is possible to either have the radio play blue tooth or have a phone jack to use head phones, so as not to wake her, is anyone considering this?

  50. I'm pretty sure it's illegal for a driver to wear headphones. If she can't sleep through your music, she doesn't deserve to sleep. Invite her to drive instead!

  51. I would ask two questions. One: Now that Better Place IP can be had for next to nothing, would you consider battery swap?
    Two: If battery prices nare truely down to less than 200 per KwH, would you make a side-line of batteries for the Fluence?

  52. If you read the SEC filings, Musk had a plan for battery swaps. Though his idea was a little different then BP. Musk's plan was you come to a station, switch batteries and then you can come back later and pick up your own battery on the way back.

    Not sure if they are still planning to go with that idea or not. But the Model S was made in a manner that the battery can be swapped quickly I hear.

  53. Is battery swapping dead, along with Better Place?

  54. Musk keeps leaving the door open to battery swapping. He has chance after chance to slam it shut, but clearly chooses his words to do the opposite.

  55. Thanks. But the question is, does it make economic and logistical sense if batteries improve, get cheaper, and charging gets much faster? How many charges or swaps would be required in a 3,000 mile US cross-country trip, and how much time would battery charging versus battery swapping take?

  56. I would ask Elon if he believes offering free charging to Tesla owners is economically sustainable, indefenitely. It would appear that as the number of Tesla cars increases, that the kwh drain on these charging stations would increase proportionately. There is NO WAY the solar panels on the roofs of these stations are going to crank out more power than about 1.1 kwh/panel/day, given a standard 240 watt panel. I applaude the use of the solar panels, but inevitably these will exist more for show. The only way, it would seem, that Elon's charging stations will stay profitable is that he needs to charge other EV owners a handsome premium to make up the difference. What is he anticipating as a rate to charge my poor little Leaf?

  57. I think you are missing the main purpose of the superchargers which is to facilitate long distance travel. How could this network be of any benefit to your Leaf, if the stations are 150 miles apart? Elon has committed to reducing this to 80-100 miles eventually, but that won't help you much. The superchargers come out of the Tesla marketing budget, and are supported by selling cars. I would really hesitate to accuse Elon of a lack of understanding on anything to do with EV transportation.

  58. Not missing the point at all, and am much in favor of the supercharing network. I only point out that giving free electricity away indefinitely has a limit as the number of Tesla cars increase, which means he either has to start charging for it, or off set the expense by selling kwh to other plug in vehicles. I suspect the latter.

  59. 2 things you should know about supercharging:

    1) Tesla does not only get solar power, they have batteries at th station that buy energy from the grid during low demand, and sell energy during peak times when its most expensive. So Tesla actually makes money on the supercharger.

    2) Each car pays 2k to use the supercharger. Assuming 0.10kwh (average industrial price)is 8.50$ per charge. That is 235 times you would have to charge over the lifespan of your car. (and keep in mind, they are buying during night when energy prices can dip below 1 cent per kwh in some places)

    So is it sustainable? the answer is yes.

  60. Is Tesla working with multiple advanced battery developers in order to be the first to utilize a more energy dense battery in future cars.

    Is the new Tesla super charging stations utilizing solar panels from Elon's Solar City business, are the charging stations grid tied or stand alone.


  61. Tony, I don't believe these charging stations could charge more than one or two cars a day, if the pictures we have seen are representative, unless they are grid tied, or unless Elon plans on putting about an acre of solar panels out in back of each one.

  62. Tesla works with panasonic, they use the 3.1ah nca batteries. Panasonic already has 4.0ah versions out this year.

    They are both, they are grid tied but they also have batteries that store power. So if grid goes down, you can still charge.

  63. Dear Elon Musk: Until battery technology gets cheaper, lighter, and better (longer range), why not build a sexy looking range-extended EV? The Chevy Volt technology is a good compromise given today's battery technology, but unfortunately it is ugly and slow! Why not build a small Model S (Audi S4 size) with a tiny gas-powered generator for $50K? You could call it the Model T :)

  64. I think you'll need a solution like this to achieve a model T http://youtu.be/2EKxWqxAbao . You'll even be able drive longer with better convenience, less waiting time and more payload.
    Chevy Volt is a great car technology wise, but not especially affordable and not so roomy for it's size and weight.

  65. Musk won't do it because it is a matter of beliefs. It would be like asking steve jobs why he didn't add a keyboard to the iphone to transition people through. Its a matter of vision. He is not going to compromise because its not about making money to him, its about vision.

    As far as range extender, pointless.
    4.3% of trips are over 100 miles
    0.1% of trips are over 200 miles

    Why carry around an engine 99.9% of the time when its not being used only to take up space, energy and lower safety?

  66. Dear Elon,

    take a look at Germany and Europe: Delivery of the Model S is close and announced for August. What impact will it have especially on the "German Angst" to drive electric cars and empathy and openness of consumers towards e-mobility in general?

    ... asks Eva-Maria, Cologne facebook.com/electrodriver

  67. Dear Mr. Musk,

    There seems to be a lot of focus on getting more out of the battery systems so we can use our electric cars more. From a conservation perspective; do you foresee opportunity concentrating at least some effort on developing technology which leads to using our electric cars (or ICE's for that matter) less or using the energy more effectively?

  68. Your cars, batteries and super chargers are great, but there remains the difficulty of longer trips,charging time/availability and... cost ! Especially for mid-range cars.

    Here is a link to a concept of an on demand range extender, which is attached to the car for occasional long trips:

    To my view this solves the point, is convenient, and very affordable. This is quite similar to what Tom Gage (AC Propulsion)did a few years ago, but with key improvements/simplifications.

    What do you think? What are the pros and cons of this solution in the context of mid range cars ?

    What do you expect public acceptance to be ? (I'm building a prototype which will be tested in Europe this fall)

  69. Musk is not going to compromise on the range extender ever. As I mentioned above, it is a matter of vision.(he has said he is not interested in hybrids)

    It really doesn't make much sense carrying around an extender when its not being used 99.9% of the time.

    Oh and a little tidbit, Tesla worked with AC Propulsion on the Tesla Roadster.

  70. I fully agree on the absurdity of carrying a RE 100% of the time and need it less than 2% of the time.
    Please note that my approach is to rent the RE and attach it to the car only on those rare occasions.
    No compromise here: FEV most of the time, and REEV on rare occasions. I call this FEV[ER] ... :-)
    The AC propulsion solution had some weaknesses on backing, security, esthetics and noise. I. I hope to have resolved these.

  71. I would not ask him anything.

  72. Elon Musk
    Good morning we meet in Detroit this winter . I love the TESLA NEW SUV and will order one soon in 2014 .
    Mickey McLaughlin
    Managing Member / Co Founder
    U-Go Stations , Inc

  73. Couldn’t that eventual Tesla “Blue Star, Gen III", car be an inexpensive, all around electric 4 door sedan, that is: small, but using that size and lighter weight, with low atmospheric drag, and making some standard features optional? Need top speed be above 100 MPH? Acceleration: 0-60 at maybe around 7 sec., instead of 4 to 5 sec.? Even Prius gets ~9.5 sec. 0-60, but sells well.

    Together, couldn't such changes help increase the range beyond, even the Model S’s, claimed 300 miles to perhaps 350 or more using the 85 kWh Model S battery pack, so that it can handle long day trips on a single charge?

    In other words, for families that can afford only one, low priced car, for both commuting and long family trips.

  74. Haven’t sales figures shown the importance range per charge has compared with other cars in a given vehicle's class? Wouldn’t that be even more important in a single-low-priced-car-family’s market, given the wider variety of applications for such a vehicle?

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