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Tesla Model S and Powerwall
Tesla’s lines of business include the Model S electric sedan as well as the Powerwall home battery system, seen at left. (Credit: Tesla)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has just shared his once-secret master plan for the electric-car company, which he now casts as a solar power and energy storage company as well. Here is the plan, as summarized by Musk in a post on the Tesla site.

  • Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage
  • Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments
  • Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
  • Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it

The expansion of Tesla’s product line will include “heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport,” Musk says in the post. “Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”

Elon Musk
Elon Musk

Addressing the future of autonomous driving, he writes, “As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely. It is important to emphasize that refinement and validation of the software will take much longer than putting in place the cameras, radar, sonar and computing hardware.”

The company is currently facing a controversy over its Autopilot assisted-driving feature, a topic that Musk addresses in the new master plan, explaining “why Tesla is deploying partial autonomy now, rather than waiting until some point in the future.”

He says, “The most important reason is that, when used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.”

On the topic of enabling a vehicle to make money when the owner isn’t using it, Musk also lays out a vision for vehicle-sharing enabled by self-driving cars.

“You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost,” he says.

The plan was laid out on the Tesla website this evening, following through on promises that Musk made in a series of tweets over the past 10 days. On Tuesday, Musk told his millions of followers that he was “aiming to pull an all-nighter” to finish the master product plan.

The reworked strategy widens Tesla Motors’ focus on electric cars such as the Model S, Model X and recently announced Model 3 to encompass Tesla’s Powerwall home battery units as well as SolarCity’s solar panel systems. To reflect that wider focus, TeslaMotors.com has been morphing into Tesla.com.

Musk’s plan is consistent with Tesla’s $2.8 billion bid to purchase SolarCity, which was announced last month. Musk is the largest shareholder of both companies, as well as privately held SpaceX.

As part of the new plan, Musk writes that he wants to create “a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world.”

He explains, “We can’t do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies. That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history. Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.”

If the deal goes through, SolarCity products will be marketed under the Tesla name. Although Musk says he’ll abstain from voting on the deal, he has voiced confidence that it’ll win the required approval from both companies’ shareholders.

Musk has attracted some scrutiny for the way he shifts investments and loans between his companies and his personal fortune, but he told The Wall Street Journal in April that he’s careful to avoid creating “some sort of house of cards” that could collapse if one company were to falter.

Tesla’s stock has gone through a series of ups and downs over the past year. Today’s trend was generally up, with the share price at $228.36 when the market closed. Solar City’s share price is lower today than it was a year ago – but it recorded a 2.6 percent gain during today’s trading, finishing at $26.95.

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