Musk talks Tesla demand, EV startups and scooters in expansive interview

·4 min read

Elon Musk weighed in on Tesla, SpaceX and his multitude of other companies — including that social media business he's trying to purchase — during a wide-reaching 80-minute interview Tuesday that covered demand for EVs, the need for raw materials, the problem with hydrogen and the most promising EV startups.

While much of what Musk talked about at the Financial Times’ Future of the Car conference in London has been shared before, there were a few items that stood out, including that Tesla could stop taking customer orders for its vehicles.

Tesla may stop taking orders

For Tesla, the issue is not demand but supply. “Right now demand is exceeding production to a ridiculous degree,” Musk said. “We're actually probably going to limit [or] stop taking orders for anything beyond a certain period of time.”

The automaker still aims to produce 20 million cars annually by 2030, a figure Musk said he chose because it represents 1% of the global fleet.

“But it’s not a promise,” he noted. “It’s an aspiration. I think we’ve got a good chance of getting there.”

That compares with the 930,000 vehicles Tesla produced last year, a figure that's been “roughly equally difficult" to reach as getting to 20 million.

Musk admires Volkswagen

When asked to name the most impressive EV startup operating today, Musk named Volkswagen, just one day after Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said from the same conference stage that Tesla proved stronger than the German juggernaut expected.

“I think the company making the most progress besides Tesla is actually VW, which is not a startup but can be viewed in some ways as a startup from an electric vehicle standpoint,” Musk said.

He also said that there are several strong companies coming out of China, which accounts for more than a quarter of Tesla’s global sales and where Tesla plans to expand its Shanghai Gigafactory.

“There's just a lot of super talented, hardworking people in China that strongly believe in manufacturing. They won't just be burning the midnight oil, they’ll be burning the 3 a.m. oil. They won't even leave the factory type of thing, whereas in America, people are trying to avoid going to work at all.”

Tesla will remain open source

Musk reiterated his standing invitation to automakers to make use of Tesla’s patents to build upon its Autopilot system.

“We only patent things in order to prevent others from creating this minefield of patents that inhibit progress with electric vehicles,” he said. “But we're never going to really prosecute anyone for using our patents. So let's just say you can use any Tesla patents for free, so I think hopefully that's helpful to others.”

But Tesla needs a year to prove itself before automakers may consider it, Musk said.

“The traditional car makers will solve electrification. It's not fundamentally difficult at this point to make electric cars. The thing that I think they may be interested in licensing is Tesla Autopilot full self-driving, and I think that would save a lot of lives.”

Buying a mining factory is not out of the question

As EV makers face a shortage of raw materials to make lithium-ion batteries, Tesla has been signing long-term deals with mining companies worldwide to secure its supply. But the automaker is not above becoming more involved with the earth-moving business.

“It's not that we wish to buy mining companies, but if that's the only way to accelerate the transition then we will do that,” Musk said. “There’s no arbitrary limitations on what's needed to accelerate. We'll just tackle whatever set of things are needed to accelerate sustainable energy, and doing mining and refining or buying a mining company provided we think we can do it.”

But scooters are out of the question

When asked if Tesla plans to make a vehicle smaller and more affordable than the Model 3, such as a scooter, Musk spoke against the micromobility device.

“Scooters are very dangerous,” he said. “I don’t recommend anyone drive a scooter. If there’s ever an argument between a scooter and a car, it will lose.”

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