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Elon Musk: The Future Is Fully Electric

The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors says the era of gasoline engines will soon look "quaint." He also divulges his idea for his next company.

If you subscribe to computer scientist Alan Kay's line of thinking that the best way to predict the future is to invent it, it's probably best to listen up when Elon Musk is asked to gaze years ahead in time.

Interviewed at The New York Times's Dealbook Conference today by Andrew Ross Sorkin, who repeatedly questioned Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, about three recent fires in Tesla automobiles, Musk largely shrugged off headlines on the accidents as "misleading" and the number as statistically insignificant. He said no Tesla recall is in the near future.

In the more distant future, he had broader predictions.

"I feel confident in predicting the long term that all transport will be electronic," said Musk, who is also founder and CTO of SpaceX, the space rocket company that's contracting with NASA. He paused slightly. "With the ironic exception of rockets."

Musk says the future of the country's ground transportation will be fully electric, powered by efficient batteries, and that "we are going to look back on this era like we do on the steam engine."

"It's quaint," he said. "We should have a few of them around in a museum somewhere, but not drive them."

Whatever happened to flying cars?

"I kind of like the idea of flying cars on the one hand, but it may not be what people want," he said, adding that noise pollution could be an issue--as might interfering with sight-lines of city skylines.

Extending electric transportation to the skies, though, might be possible, and--yes--Musk even has a plan for it.

"I do think there's a lot of possibility in creating a vertical-takeoff supersonic transport jet. It could come from a startup," Musk said, admitting that if he has another company in the future, "which will happen no time soon," he'd be open to building electric supersonic aircrafts. He even has a design in mind--inspired by the Concorde.

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Last updated: Nov 12, 2013

CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer

Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.




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