Billionaire Elon Musk’s Q&A sessions are traditionally the most entertaining part of Tesla’s annual shareholders meeting, and this year’s appearance did not disappoint.
During today’s hourlong meeting at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., Musk fielded questions about what he does during his off time, and whether a nuclear fusion reactor would fit in the front trunk of Tesla’s Model S electric car.
But there was also serious substance to Musk’s talk. One of the biggest applause lines came when he discussed preparations for the unveiling of Tesla’s Semi electric-powered truck in September. He said a prototype of the truck already has been shown to organizations that buy heavy-duty trucks.
“They all love it,” he said. “They just want to know how many can they buy, and how soon. … We’re getting them closely involved in the design process.”
That’s notable, considering that a Carnegie Mellon University study cited last week by Wired voiced doubts about all-electric trucking. The study reportedly determined that a battery-powered semi would be limited to a 300-mile range, cost a fortune and offer limited cargo capacity, based on computer models.
Musk’s model for an all-electric future is far more upbeat. He said Tesla’s combination of solar power generation, home batteries, charging stations and electric-powered cars can serve as a long-term global energy solution.
“One of the key things that happened this year is the beginning of the transition of Tesla to a fully integrated, sustainable energy company. … It’s a fully contained energy solution that could scale for the whole world,” he said. “You could imagine as far into the future … well beyond human civilization, which I hope lasts a really long time.”
Musk fleshed out the details in the Q&A. Here are 10 highlights, but you can watch the whole thing via Tesla’s website:
- The fact that solar power provides nearly all of the electricity needed on American Samoa’s island of Ta’u augurs well for an all-electric future, Musk said: “If you can take an island and have that run completely on solar and batteries, you can do that to a continent,” he said.
- As Tesla prepares for this year’s rollout of its most affordable electric car, the Model 3, the company is beefing up its network of fast-charging stations as well as its service network. Demand for the Model 3 has been so great that if a buyer were to put down a $1,000 deposit today, the car couldn’t be delivered until the end of next year, Musk said. “The line isn’t getting shorter,” he added..
- Musk expected that Tesla would wind up building between 10 and 20 Gigafactories around the world, including a new factory for producing its future Model Y compact SUV. Musk said he expected demand for the Model Y to exceed the demand for the Model 3 once it hits the road around 2019.
- Not all of Musk’s ideas have been stellar hits. Musk acknowledged that he was “foolish” to put so much complexity into Tesla’s Model X SUV at the beginning. “We created something great that probably will never be made again – and perhaps should not be,” he said. “But it is an amazing car, and as we keep refining the software in the Model X, it’s just going to get better and better.”
- Tesla has faced some criticism for work conditions at its car factory in Fremont, Calif., but Musk said that the injury rate is now 32 percent below the industry average and continuing to drop. One factor has been the addition of a third shift at the factory, he said.
- Musk said Tesla had no plans to build an all-electric airplane, even though that’s an idea he’s brought up in the past. Battery energy density just isn’t good enough yet, he said. “We’re maybe four or five years away from having 500 watt-hours per kilogram,” which is when the idea could become “quite compelling,” Musk said.
- When asked how he spends his time, Musk cautioned the crowd that “tweet frequency has no correlation with what I actually do for a work basls.” He estimated that 3 to 5 percent of his time went to Neuralink, 2 percent to The Boring Company, and a couple of percent to OpenAI. The other 90 percent or so was divided roughly half and half between Tesla and SpaceX. “Probably slightly more Tesla … Tesla’s like a drama magnet,” he said.
- As for his spare time, Musk said “it may not shock you, but sports is not something I do a lot of.” He said he loves movies: “Saw the ‘Wonder Woman’ movie with my kids this weekend, that was great.” He also enjoys listening to music – and added that he’s planning an “exciting” announcement about an algorithm for music selection and playlists. Musk also said he intends to boost the quality of the sound system in Tesla’s cars, thanks to an over-the-air update of the system’s audio codec.
- Musk also acknowledged that he uses some of his free time to “go crazy on Twitter.” He joked about his tweetstorms: “A little red wine, a vintage record player, some Ambien … magic happens.”
- And about that fusion reactor … will it fit? “Of course,” Musk said. “I’m not saying we’re going to add a nuclear fusion reactor. I’m just saying it fits.”