Elon Musk revealed part two of Tesla's "Master Plan" Wednesday night. And it's a doozy.
Musk's plan involves combining Tesla and SolarCity and eventually creating a solar-powered car. The manifesto, outlined in a blog post called "Master Plan, Part Deux," calls for a "smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery" for Tesla vehicles, as well as an autopilot feature so safe and reliable that they'll be able to pick owners up without needing a driver.
It's all, Musk says, part of his vision to get the world to stop relying on gas and oil. "We must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse," he wrote in the post. "The faster we achieve sustainability, the better."
That could take time, of course. By his rough calculation, Tesla will be capable of mass-producing at the rate he desires when the soon-to-be-released affordable cars--dubbed the Model 3--are in their third version. So by his math, that means Tesla's factories won't have the infrastructure to execute his plan until 2022.
No matter if you think Musk's vision is far-fetched, the startup world will surely devour it. The entrepreneur has become a touchstone for his ability to both launch and steer successful businesses.
Behind the Plan
For starters, Musk says he wants the cars' autopilot mode to be 10 times safer than manual driving. When owners aren't using the car, they could program it to act like a self-driving Uber, generating income that eventually offsets the cost of the car. That would essentially make it free, or even profitable, for the buyer, Musk claims.
The autopilot feature has come under fire recently, as it has been implicated in the death of at least one Tesla driver. Musk himself has also been the subject of backlash lately for, among other things, expressing his desire to merge Tesla and SolarCity, the energy company he co-founded that's currently run by his cousin. Critics have called the move a "bailout" of SolarCity, which is not yet profitable and saw its stock fall by 15 percent in 2016's first quarter.
Still, that's not how Musk sees it. The SolarCity acquisition is pivotal to his plan. He offered a manifest destiny-esque vision of Tesla and SolarCities joining forces, and said that the fact Tesla and SolarCity were ever two different companies is "an accident of history."
Musk initially co-founded Tesla in 2003 using the money he had made from the sale of PayPal. "I thought our chances of success were so low," Musk wrote, "that I didn't want to risk anyone's funds in the beginning but my own." He co-founded SolarCity three years later.
Musk's plan also revealed his intention to create a Tesla compact SUV and a pickup truck, as well as an autonomous fleet of urban buses. He expects those to to be ready for unveiling next year.
A Rocky Road
Musk first teased the plan on July 10, with Tesla in the midst of a PR crisis. Just days before, news hit that the first death from autopilot had occurred back in May. That hadn't been reported to Tesla shareholders by Musk until after the company issued a public offering of $2 billion in company shares. Musk has since insisted that the crash was "not material" to the health of the company and was a "statistical inevitability."
The entrepreneur put off the plan's big reveal several times on Twitter, citing a SpaceX launch and another unnamed distraction. He then promised to pull a college-style "all-nighter" before he finally posted the outline Wednesday night.
Musk didn't directly tie the timing of the master plan to either the SolarCity or autopilot controversies, but it's hard to imagine it's a coincidence.
That doesn't mean it's all PR, however. Some might laugh at the plan's ambition, especially given that it comes at a low point for the entrepreneur and his companies. But Musk has earned the right to offer outrageous visions with impunity.
His first master plan, revealed 10 years ago, called for an affordable battery-powered car that would be built using the money from the previous, more expensive models. Around that time, Musk was written off by some as just looking to make expensive luxury cars.
Instead, Musk reinvested the profits from the first Tesla Roadster back into the company. He has consistently churned out new models ever since. Next year, the $35,000 Model 3--the most affordable electric car ever--will be available. Tesla has already received more than 400,000 pre-orders.
It's still unclear what the timeline will be on getting vehicles that operate on sunlight into the hands of consumers, and of course, the autopilot feature has far to go. But to think he won't eventually get there would probably be a mistake.