REUTERS / Phil McCartenTesla CEO Elon Musk has outlined his big ideas in college commencement speeches.Say what you will about Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, there's no question that he's in it for humanity.
When he became hyper-rich after eBay bought PayPal, he didn't spend his millions to develop a social media app.
Rather, he bought into an electric car company, declared that he wanted to send astronauts to Mars, and invested in solar power.
On Thursday, Musk will reportedly reveal two new Tesla products: a "home" battery and a much bigger "utility scale" battery. Effectively, Tesla will offer customers the opportunity to buy (or lease) a Tesla battery without shelling out $100, 000 for a Tesla vehicle.
If you're a cynic, you might say that Musk is just trying to create a new story for Wall Street, to counter some of the skepticism that's emerged over Tesla's immediate financial prospects. The stock has been trading higher ahead of the announcement, after dipping at the end of last year (it's still well down from its peak of 1, hit last September).
You can't look at Musk's companies as ... well, companies. Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity (which is actually run by Musk's cousins) taken together are really a system, and Musk is a systems engineer, or designer, or architect (take your pick).
To prevent global warming, you need to completely change the transportation matrix, replacing the internal-combustion engine en masse. That's Tesla role in the Muskian system.
To power Tesla's cars, you need electricity that isn't generated by fossil fuels. That's where SolarCity comes into the picture. Musk wants to capture the free energy of the Sun.
And just is case it all goes to hell, the planet become uninhabitable, or an asteroid bears down on Earth, SpaceX is there to, as Musk puts it, make us "multi-planetary." We could use Mars as a lifeboat.
Musk's whole system runs on power gathered from the Sun, and if you want to do that at any kind of scale, you need to store the energy.
Screenshot via SolarCitySolarCity customers currently have access to a Tesla home battery.
That's where the batteries come in. Tesla wouldn't be Tesla without its innovative, idiosyncratic battery design – thousands of laptop-style lithium-ion cells, wired together. This design enabled Tesla to be the only electric car maker selling a vehicle that delivered range on par with the gas-powered competition.
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