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Elon Musk & Tesla CTO JB Straubel Q&A In Norway (VIDEOS)

Following up on the Amsterdam Q&A that Tesla CEO Elon Musk and CTO JB Straubel held last week, below is a 1½-hour Q&A that was held in Norway, electric vehicle (EV) capital of the world.

This video linked here is actually quite a bit better, really top-notch quality, but it cannot be embedded. So, thanks to Bjørn Nyland for also sharing a great video on YouTube. Whichever you choose to watch, I’m sure you’ll be happy. Enjoy!

For those who prefer text (you should really watch the video!), here are most of the points made in the Norway Tesla Q&A:

  • Software update 6.0: real-time traffic, voice navigation will also attempt to automatically determine where your home & workplace are, internet music will be available (any song, any time), a bunch more suspension functionalities will be available.
  • Going to be more than doubling the # of Superchargers in Norway and on the way to the rest of Europe. Norway will certainly have the highest number of Superchargers per capita of any country in the world.
  • Charging issues in Norway were due to the unique nature of Norway’s grid, but the issues are being fixed.
  • Why buy the Tesla Model X when you already have the Model S? AWD, more cargo space, more ground clearance, purely preference issue (if you prefer an SUV or a sedan).
  • Drop-in center console for Model S coming.
  • Environmental impact of Tesla Model S production has been under study by Tesla. The company is probably going to release a white paper on that soon. Elon was also keen to note something a lot of people mix — grids all over the world are getting greener every day. So, electricity used to charge the Model S will just get greener and greener, but even today, it is much more efficient and greener. It looks like, on average, “energy payback” of the Model S comes at around 10,000 miles. After that, it’s having a net benefit compared to gasoline-powered cars.
  • Contrary to being concerned about EV competition from major car brands, Tesla is hoping to stimulate competition and bring more major car companies in the EV world faster.
  • Potential for bigger battery packs in the Model S in the future (maybe in 1 year), but the main focus right now is trying to figure out how to get the price per kWh down for the production of its next, cheaper car. As Elon notes, “the goal of Tesla has always been to try to create a compelling mass-market electric car.” He also emphasized that the money made from the Model S and Model X will be put directly into making this mass-market, affordable, compelling electric car — “an affordable electric car that’s great.” This next car will really “drive forward the electric car revolution.”
  • Since it’s a proprietary number, Elon wasn’t willing to give an exact number on the cost per kWh of the Model S/Model X battery pack right now, but he did note that their goal is to drop that number by about 40% for the affordable, mass-market electric Tesla. At least 30%, but ideally 40%.
  • However, even more critical than the cost drop, according to Elon, is creating the capacity to produce enough batteries for such a car. He then discussed the “gigafactory” Tesla is planning to build. The aim for that is 30 GWh of production per year, which he notes is more than all the battery production of any kind (globally) in 2012 (in Korea, China, Japan, etc).
  • Working on a software upgrade for a better uphill start.
  • A higher Model S top speed is something Tesla is working on.
  • Elon thinks it’s “likely” that Tesla will bring the first autonomous car to market. (An “autopilot” car, as Tesla calls it.) The highest priority is to identify the “sensor suite” that needs to be installed. It will take time. Overall, though, it is a long-term priority of Tesla, and Elon thinks they will be the first to bring an autopilot car to market.
  • One questioner noted that, not knowing anything about electric cars beforehand, he and his daughter were sold on buying the Model S after about 1 minute in it. He also noted that it was worlds better than the BMW i3. So, based on that, he asked if Tesla had a vision of becoming the largest car manufacturer in the world. Elon said that the goal is “not really market share for its own sake,” but to help the world transform to electric cars.
  • Elon noted that approximately 100 million new cars are manufactured each year, but there are 2 billion cars operating in the world. So, even if all new cars were EVs, it would take ~20 years to fully transition to EVs, which would come with many bad consequences, Elon noted. Using that perspective, it’s also worth noting (according to Elon) that Tesla isn’t even next to the decimal point for percentage of automobile market share. To get to 0.1% market share, it needs to sell 100,000 cars a year. So, that’s its near-term objective.
  • A little boy asked if Tesla was considering making electric boats or planes in addition to cars. Elon, naturally, noted that they were focused on just building cars at the moment, but he also said that he had the plane idea on his head (and even named a specific model).
  • One questioner asked about the dimensions of the Model X. Elon noted that trying to marry aesthetics and functionality in an SUV has been a very hard challenge. As an estimate, he said the design problem for the X is about 2 to 3 times harder than for the S. In the end, Tesla is aiming to keep the wheel base the same, the length very similar (just about 5 cm longer), and the width the same. He didn’t say how high, but he said height shouldn’t be a problem for any normal garage.
  • He did note that the falcon wing doors would indeed make it to production. Overall, Elon discussed something he hated about the car industry — that car companies show these great-looking “show cars” and then don’t bring them to market. It drives him crazy. At Tesla, he noted a completely opposite rule — “any car that is a prototype that’s shown to customers, the production car must be better.”
  • Model X energy consumption will probably be about 10% greater per km than the Model S. Tesla is also using two electric motors for the AWD in order to make that improvement an “efficiency-neutral” improvement. CTO JB Straubel notes that’s a pretty big breakthrough in AWD, and thinks it’s the first time that there hasn’t been an efficiency trade-off for the AWD version of a car.
  • Tesla is going to do away with mirrors in the long term, but it’s just a matter of how long it takes to get regulatory approval. They also want cameras to be used for the rear-view mirrors, since that would also be safer.
  • One questioner, calling Elon one of the most if not the most innovative businessman in the world, asked where he got his inspiration beyond from family, friends, and colleagues. Elon noted reading biographies and about history, but he also noted that there’s great benefit from reading about or working in other industries (such as the space industry ;) ).
  • JB Straubel noted that there’s no end goal for the Supercharger network, but it’s something like the road network — that it will just keep growing and growing.
  • Elon also noted that the Superchargers, when they were first introduced, they were able to put out 90 kW, and they’ve upgraded it to 120 kW, and most of the stations later this year will be 135 kW.
  • Elon noted that they are working on improving the seat comfort in the Model S, with one portion of that improvement going into place this week. He’s also 90% sure that an option to retrofit seats to the new seats will be open to those who want them (of course, if you pay for it). However, he noted this is quite complex, especially because there are complicated sensors in the seat that determine if the passenger is a baby, child, or adult and how they are sitting in order to most adequately deploy the air bag in an accident.
  • A commenter and Elon both noted that the life expectancy of the Model S should be much greater than for a normal gasoline car (with replacement of the battery pack, perhaps 20 years vs the typical 10–12 years of a typical gasoline car).
  • Elon noted that Tesla makes the power train, battery pack, and motor for the Toyota RAV4 EV, as well as for the electric Mercedes coming out in a few months. However, overall, he notes that most other car companies seem to have poor motivations and just want to produce the lowest number of electric vehicles required by law. He notes that only two things seem like they can drive EV advancement in mainstream car companies — government regulation and competitive pressure. He notes that government regulation is relatively weak in this regard (and the car companies have a lot of lobbying power to keep it that way). So, Tesla’s conclusion is that the best thing to get them to go electric is competitor pressure.
  • The Model X is likely to arrive in Norway around summer 2015 (1st quarter 2014 in the US). An AWD version of the Model S is also likely around that time.
  • Elon thinks (“what he hears is”) the Norway VAT exemption for electric vehicles will be extended once the limit is reached (50,000 EVs on the road is when it will be reviewed), likely to be raised to about 5% to 10% of the cars on the road (up from about 2.5%).

In the words of Bjørn Nyland, yeah, I think that covers it.

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