Published on October 25th, 2013 | by Cynthia Shahan1
Elon Musk On Fuel Cells — “So Bullshit”
Oftentimes with filters, limits, or intellectual boundaries, they say there is a line to walk. With data based in certainty, expressively sharing one’s mind can be a good thing. If one has a proven understanding of a subject, all the better to speak one’s mind.
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has a lot of inside information and expertise on automobile technology, and I think we all know that he is not scared to speak his mind. At a recent event in Germany, Elon made several big announcements, calling Germany Tesla’s “top focus in the world” at the moment. At the event, he announced that German Model S’s will be optimized for the Autobahn — he is sending Tesla’s top engineering team to Germany to make this happen. They will do a custom tune-up of the car to allow people to drive faster. He made other interesting announcements as well (see below), but one of the hottest comments of the night came when he decided to say something about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, something Germany’s BMW is supposedly bullish about. About 29:20 seconds into the first video below, Musk says, “fuel cell is so bullshit.”
Going on, Musk notes that the companies behind fuel cell vehicles don’t really believe in the technology, that it’s just a marketing thing. He says that if you look at a fuel cell vehicle’s “best case” potential, regarding mass/volume needed per range and cost, it “doesn’t even equal the current state-of-the-art in lithium-ion batteries.” He also notes that putting up the hydrogen infrastructure necessary for these vehicles would be very difficult and that hydrogen is quite dangerous. “You know, it’s suitable for the upper stage of rockets, but not for cars,” he notes.
(Notably, someone working in a field related to fuel cells chimed in later and said that Elon was “absolutely right.”)
The full video is below if you want to watch it all. Elon Musk starts speaking about halfway through the video, so if you just want to watch him jump to that section here.
There’s some overlap here, but the following video gets the remainder of the conversation:
Naturally, Musk promoted the idea that EVs are the next evolution of the automobile, and that we need to quickly move away from burning hydrocarbons. This is a should have, would have, could have — this transition should have happened yesterday. Now, we all need to be either walking, biking, riding transit, or driving electric. We aren’t. But at least the likes of Elon Musk are now pushing this option forward.
Affordability is part of the equation, so it is nice to hear Musk say that work is going strong on the third-generation, lower-cost Tesla aimed for a larger portion of the population. This model will be unveiled in the next 12 to 18 months, Musk noted.
For some more hot points regarding Tesla’s focus on Germany, Musk noted:
- Germany was the second-biggest Tesla Roadster market.
- Germany will have the second-highest number of Superchargers in the world (behind the US), and the most per capita.
- Germany is targeted to become Tesla’s 3rd-largest market, behind the US and China.
- By the end of next year, Tesla intends to have about 80% of Germany within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of a Tesla service station.
Regarding Superchargers, Musk noted that they are fast enough that you can simply stop to get a bite to eat and charge your car in the meantime. Germany’s Supercharger network is supposed to be completely installed by the end of 2014. It is to consist of between 40 and 50 stations, set up such that no one should have to drive more than 200 kilometers (124 miles). Furthermore, the Supercharger stations will have 135 kWh chargers rather than the 120 kWh ones used in the US.
Another nice note was Musk addressing the highly publicized fire of a Tesla. You know, the one that drew an inordinate amount of publicity. (“Oh shit, That’s a Tesla.”) Musk educates with the facts. A Model S is 5 times less likely to catch fire than any gasoline car, he noted. A gasoline car has one fire every 20 million miles and the Model S has one fire every 100 million miles. Furthermore, the Model S got the highest safety rating of any car ever tested in North America.
Thank you to Elon for the facts (as you know them to be).