Tesla CEO Elon Musk & CTO JB Straubel In Norway Q&A (VIDEOS)

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

Following up on the Amsterdam Q&A that Tesla CEO Elon Musk and CTO JB Straubel held last week, below is a 1½-hour Q&A that was held in Norway, electric vehicle (EV) capital of the world. This video linked here is actually a bit better, really top-notch quality, but it cannot be embedded. So, thanks to Bjørn Nyland for also sharing a great video on YouTube. Whichever you choose to watch, I’m sure you’ll be happy — enjoy!

Here were some of the key points made in the Norway Tesla Q&A:

  • Software update 6.0: real-time traffic, voice navigation will also attempt to automatically determine where your home & workplace are, internet music will be available (any song, any time), a bunch more suspension functionalities will be available.
  • Going to be more than doubling the # of Superchargers in Norway and on the way to the rest of Europe. Norway will certainly have the highest number of Superchargers per capita of any country in the world.
  • Charging issues in Norway were due to the unique nature of Norway’s grid, but the issues are being fixed.
  • Why buy the Tesla Model X when you already have the Model S? AWD, more cargo space, more ground clearance, purely preference issue (if you prefer an SUV or a sedan).
  • Drop-in center console for Model S coming.
  • Environmental impact of Tesla Model S production has been under study by Tesla. The company is probably going to release a white paper on that soon. Elon was also keen to note something a lot of people mix — grids all over the world are getting greener every day. So, electricity used to charge the Model S will just get greener and greener, but even today, it is much more efficient and greener. It looks like, on average, “energy payback” of the Model S comes at around 10,000 miles. After that, it’s having a net benefit compared to gasoline-powered cars.
  • Contrary to being concerned about EV competition from major car brands, Tesla is hoping to stimulate competition and bring more major car companies in the EV world faster.
  • Potential for bigger battery packs in the Model S in the future (maybe in 1 year), but the main focus right now is trying to figure out how to get the price per kWh down for the production of its next, cheaper car. As Elon notes, “the goal of Tesla has always been to try to create a compelling mass-market electric car.” He also emphasized that the money made from the Model S and Model X will be put directly into making this mass-market, affordable, compelling electric car — “an affordable electric car that’s great.” This next car will really “drive forward the electric car revolution.”
  • Since it’s a proprietary number, Elon wasn’t willing to give an exact number on the cost per kWh of the Model S/Model X battery pack right now, but he did note that their goal is to drop that number by about 40% for the affordable, mass-market electric Tesla. At least 30%, but ideally 40%.
  • However, even more critical than the cost drop, according to Elon, is creating the capacity to produce enough batteries for such a car. He then discussed the “gigafactory” Tesla is planning to build. The aim for that is 30 GWh of production per year, which he notes is more than all the battery production of any kind (globally) in 2012 (in Korea, China, Japan, etc).
  • Working on a software upgrade for a better uphill start.
  • A higher Model S top speed is something Tesla is working on.
  • Elon thinks it’s “likely” that Tesla will bring the first autonomous car to market. (An “autopilot” car, as Tesla calls it.) The highest priority is to identify the “sensor suite” that needs to be installed. It will take time. Overall, though, it is a long-term priority of Tesla, and Elon thinks they will be the first to bring an autopilot car to market.
  • One questioner noted that, not knowing anything about electric cars beforehand, he and his daughter were sold on buying the Model S after about 1 minute in it. He also noted that it was worlds better than the BMW i3. So, based on that, he asked if Tesla had a vision of becoming the largest car manufacturer in the world. Elon said that the goal is “not really market share for its own sake,” but to help the world transform to electric cars.
  • Elon noted that approximately 100 million new cars are manufactured each year, but there are 2 billion cars operating in the world. So, even if all new cars were EVs, it would take ~20 years to fully transition to EVs, which would come with many bad consequences, Elon noted. Using that perspective, it’s also worth noting (according to Elon) that Tesla isn’t even next to the decimal point for percentage of automobile market share. To get to 0.1% market share, it needs to sell 100,000 cars a year. So, that’s its near-term objective.
  • A little boy asked if Tesla was considering making electric boats or planes in addition to cars. Elon, naturally, noted that they were focused on just building cars at the moment, but he also said that he had the plane idea on his head (and even named a specific model).
  • One questioner asked about the dimensions of the Model X. Elon noted that trying to marry aesthetics and functionality in an SUV has been a very hard challenge. As an estimate, he said the design problem for the X is about 2 to 3 times harder than for the S. In the end, Tesla is aiming to keep the wheel base the same, the length very similar (just about 5 cm longer), and the width the same. He didn’t say how high, but he said height shouldn’t be a problem for any normal garage.
  • He did note that the falcon wing doors would indeed make it to production. Overall, Elon discussed something he hated about the car industry — that car companies show these great-looking “show cars” and then don’t bring them to market. It drives him crazy. At Tesla, he noted a completely opposite rule — “any car that is a prototype that’s shown to customers, the production car must be better.”
  • Model X energy consumption will probably be about 10% greater per km than the Model S. Tesla is also using two electric motors for the AWD in order to make that improvement an “efficiency-neutral” improvement. CTO JB Straubel notes that’s a pretty big breakthrough in AWD, and thinks it’s the first time that there hasn’t been an efficiency trade-off for the AWD version of a car.
  • Tesla is going to do away with mirrors in the long term, but it’s just a matter of how long it takes to get regulatory approval. They also want cameras to be used for the rear-view mirrors, since that would also be safer.
  • One questioner, calling Elon one of the most if not the most innovative businessman in the world, asked where he got his inspiration beyond from family, friends, and colleagues. Elon noted reading biographies and about history, but he also noted that there’s great benefit from reading about or working in other industries (such as the space industry 😉 ).
  • JB Straubel noted that there’s no end goal for the Supercharger network, but it’s something like the road network — that it will just keep growing and growing.
  • Elon also noted that the Superchargers, when they were first introduced, they were able to put out 90 kW, and they’ve upgraded it to 120 kW, and most of the stations later this year will be 135 kW.
  • Elon noted that they are working on improving the seat comfort in the Model S, with one portion of that improvement going into place this week. He’s also 90% sure that an option to retrofit seats to the new seats will be open to those who want them (of course, if you pay for it). However, he noted this is quite complex, especially because there are complicated sensors in the seat that determine if the passenger is a baby, child, or adult and how they are sitting in order to most adequately deploy the air bag in an accident.
  • A commenter and Elon both noted that the life expectancy of the Model S should be much greater than for a normal gasoline car (with replacement of the battery pack, perhaps 20 years vs the typical 10–12 years of a typical gasoline car).
  • Elon noted that Tesla makes the power train, battery pack, and motor for the Toyota RAV4 EV, as well as for the electric Mercedes coming out in a few months. However, overall, he notes that most other car companies seem to have poor motivations and just want to produce the lowest number of electric vehicles required by law. He notes that only two things seem like they can drive EV advancement in mainstream car companies — government regulation and competitive pressure. He notes that government regulation is relatively weak in this regard (and the car companies have a lot of lobbying power to keep it that way). So, Tesla’s conclusion is that the best thing to get them to go electric is competitor pressure.
  • The Model X is likely to arrive in Norway around summer 2015 (1st quarter 2014 in the US). An AWD version of the Model S is also likely around that time.
  • Elon thinks (“what he hears is”) the Norway VAT exemption for electric vehicles will be extended once the limit is reached (50,000 EVs on the road is when it will be reviewed), likely to be raised to about 5% to 10% of the cars on the road (up from about 2.5%).

In the words of Bjørn Nyland, yeah, I think that covers it.

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22 thoughts on “Tesla CEO Elon Musk & CTO JB Straubel In Norway Q&A (VIDEOS)

    • Natural gas shortage in California? Ha ha. Great.

    • Haha, think he’s got bigger plans than helping natural gas 😀

      • Ummm yeah – – cuz a significant portion of electricity in North America originates from natural gas . . .
        And yeah – Elon’s got “bigger plans” – like selling cars with a promise of “free energy for life” while ignoring just where that energy is going to come from. (TODAY – it comes from a combination of burning natural gas, coal and some nuclear thrown in for good measure). But, you’re right – Elon’s got bigger fish to fry as opposed to ensuring the long-term viability of his product.

        • Sorry to upset your anti-Earth fantasies, but Elon also has a solar company and they are installing PV solar to cover their EV car use.

          • Wow that got personal real quick – why is that?

            But – we’re talking about here now today – right?

            Someday – maybe solar is a player – but not now – not yet.

            And “…to cover their EV car use” – – – wow – have you done the math on this? So – you’re assuming that TESLA remains a bit player – right?

          • Solar is already a player in most countries of the world. So is wind, for that matter. BTW why is TODAY so important to you or are you just trying to stir up an argument? Tesla IS and WILL be a major player in the EV field, considering that the US car manufacturers are just making token efforts to produce EVs. Most that have been in car shows are not being produced even though buyers are putting in orders for them. Snooze they lose. They may wake up to that fact too late.

          • Solar is a player – no one suggested otherwise. THE POINT IS that if and when EV’s are in common every day use by any significant preponderance of the population, there wont be enough solar AND wind combined to fuel the demand created by these vehicles. Do the math.
            Where do you expect the balance to come from?
            Today, and for the foreseeable future – the overwhelming majority of that demand will continue to be satisfied by the burning of fossil fuels and a not insignificant portion of nuclear.
            P.S. – Curious how any individual who professes to be concerned about our environment can align themselves behind an institution who is promising free energy for life. This giveaway is contrary to any notion of conservation I have ever been witness to.

          • Do you really think solar and wind installation won’t keep ahead of EV production?

            Do you not understand that we really don’t need more generation during late night when the wind tends to blow hard? And that wind generation that is added for production in other times of the day will be available for late night charging?

            I sort of think you don’t have a good handle on how little electricity it uses to drive a mile.

            0.3 kWh * 13,000 average miles per year =~ 2.5 kW of solar panels in “average” America.

          • “I guess Elon’s got “bigger plans” – like selling cars with a promise of “free energy for life” while ignoring where that energy is going to come from – not 10 years from now – but RIGHT NOW”

            Those solar panels are being installed right now.

            I don’t know if Tesla will become a major car manufacturer or not. But I do know that one of Elon’s other companies is installing a lot of solar.

            Are you aware how few panels it actually takes to provide the electricity needed to charge an EV?

          • OK – throw a few panels on your rooftop and – you got me – you can run your TESLA – all of 200 miles from home. You’re right
            Now – let’s talk about those hundreds of SuperChargers every 200 miles across the country.
            Let’s pretend that TESLA becomes a factor such that SuperCharger stations are busy 24×7 – just like gas stations are today.
            Let’s say that a 65 or 85 kw/hr battery pulls into the station wanting to be topped up and is 80% depleted. And, round numbers – let’s say that these guys would like to get topped up in 30 minutes. So you need to deliver somewhere between 52000 or 68000 watts every 30 minutes or 104 to 136 kw/hrs.

            Let’s pretend that 1 square foot of solar cells produces about 10 watts – but can only do so during daylight hours which – (VERY conservative here) is only 1/3rd of the day. But, next to a busy highway – you’ve gotta recharge TESLAS 24/7 – right?

            OK – so our supercharger needs to harvest somewhere between 315 and 412 kw/hrs during the 8 hour sunshine exposure period. 1/3rd of that energy will be immediately consumed in real time by people “filling up” and the other 2/3rds will be used to charge batteries which will then be used to recharge people using the Supercharger at night = right? Seems to me we need about 31,000 square feet of solar panels to run our ONE super charger.
            But – wait – ONE supercharger?

            Don’t most gas stations have 8 or 10 or more pumps?
            Do the math kids – – the numbers CAN’T possibly work out.
            Who in their right mind is going to grant the land rights to place 100’s of thousands of solar panels every 200 miles along major highways?

            The answer is that solar will be a factor but in the long run, Elon and his TESLA are still reliant on coal, LNG and nuclear sources for much of the energy they require.

            P.S. – I’m assuming sunshine 8 hours per day, 365 days a year and zero conversion or storage losses in our process – the REAL answer is that you wont get anywhere near 8 hours a day 365 days a year and the storage and conversion losses are significant. Just kick in another 20 or 30 or more percent to the numbers of panels necessary to make up the difference. . .. .

          • Why would the panels be placed along the highway?

            Ever hear about the electricity grid?

          • Let me run the numbers –

            85 kWh * 0.8 = 68 kWh . Make it 75 kWh to account for charging loss.

            Assume constant flow of cars.

            75 kWh x 48 = 3,600 kWh.

            Put the panels in the middle of the lower 48. 4.5 average solar hours per day.

            3,600 / 4.5 = 800 kW of panels.

            16.2 Watts per square foot (17.4% efficient panels).

            49,383 sq ft. 1.13 acres per supercharger.

            640 acres in a square mile, so 0.002 sq. miles per supercharger.

            Now, the number of superchargers. Well under 5% of our driving days exceed 200 miles. There’s no need to replace all gas pumps, 95% or more charging is going to take place while EVs are parked. Mostly using late night wind.
            3.794 million square miles in the US.

            I think we’ve got the room.

            Now, the actual electrons that flow into a supercharger at 7 pm or 3 am may not come from Elon’s solar panels. Some may, in fact, come from a coal plant (remember, coal is down from 54% to 40% of our total production and will keep falling). But those superchargers will cause no net increase in fossil fuels burned. His solar panels panels will be offsetting fossil fuel use when they are producing.

          • WOW!

            I’m not even going to bother with the math . . .

            Anybody else see that massive leap?

            In just a couple of short exchanges, we’ve gone from “Are you aware how few panels it actually takes to provide the electricity needed to charge an EV?” – to NOW requiring an acre per Supercharger (forgetting about transmission, conversion and storage losses) PLUS a respective share of coal or LNG-fired and/or nuclear for good measure.
            That’s one acre of land which will never see the direct light of day. . . . every 200 miles multiplied by the number of superchargers you think it’ll require to keep TESLA’s tooling up and down I-80. . .

          • There was no massive leap. What you got was the math for powering a supercharger, non stop.

            You want to now deal with ” how few panels it actually takes to provide the electricity needed to charge an EV”?

            13,000 miles – average for US drivers.

            0.3 kWh per mile. 3,900 kWh per year. 10.7 kWh per day.

            4.5 average solar hours in the middle of the lower 48, so 2.4, call it 2.5 kW of panels to provide all the electricity used by an average EV per year.

            16.2 Watts per square foot. 403 square feet to power the average EV for a year. 0.009 acre.

          • THus rolls the obfuscation of those who are emotionally or financially invested in Elon’s folly.
            But – we digress – and on this point, I’ll make my final.
            We’ve now come full circle.
            To my original point.
            One which was challenged and mocked.
            The point is that Elon’s folly relies on a grid and on sources other than solar.
            A grid which is already being taxed and sources which are contributing to a variety of pollutants – a significant portion of which is nuclear.
            If I’m Elon and I’m thinking ahead – – I’d want to solve these problems now – lest the product I’m offering realize an untimely death. . . . spend more time on these points and less toying with political hyperbole like the Hyperloop. . .

          • Your original point is bogus. The grid is in no way overtaxed. Studies find that we have capacity and transmission to charge over 70% of all US cars were they to become EVs overnight.

            An EV running on 100% coal-produced electricity produces a small amount more CO2 than an ICEV running on petroleum. However our grid is now about 40% coal.

            Of course EVs will use electricity from sources other than solar. Most EV charging will likely be done with wind power. Onshore wind tends to blow harder at night when EVs are most likely to be plugged in and waiting for power.

            As for the hyperloop, perhaps you don’t know that Elon is not involved in testing out that idea. That’s going forward, run by a different set of very qualified people.

            Sorry, you showed up with a big bag of misinformation. Time to catch up.

          • Now, how about we look at that “acre”?

            200 miles per charge.

            48 charges per day.

            365 days a year.

            3,504,000 miles.

          • Finally, the “(forgetting about transmission, conversion and storage losses) PLUS a respective share of coal or LNG-fired and/or nuclear for good measure”.

            I threw in some extra panels to deal with transmission and charging loss.

            Yes, for now some of the actual electrons flowing into the batteries will get pushed by coal and NG. But when the Sun is shining less coal and NG will be used. We’re just time-shifting while avoiding petroleum.

            Each year going forward fewer and fewer of those electrons will be pushed by fossil fuel. Each year renewables will be produced by wind, solar and other renewable technologies until fossil fuels are “something we used to use”.

            BTW, are you aware that at one time we distributed automobile fuel with horse and wagon?

            Few changes are instantaneous.

        • So, sorry, what exactly do you expect Elon to do for TODAY? I think Elon realized we have energy problems TODAY and that’s why he tries to solve it with solar power for the FUTURE, which is definitely to ensure the long-term viability of his products.

          There are 7 billion people in the world and many are focusing on solving today problems, far fewer focusing on FUTURE problems. I don’t see why we should pull him back into the TODAY-problem-solving pool.

          Also note that the article you posted asked people to reduce their power usage until 10 pm. Most people charge their cars after midnight to get the cheaper rate. So they are not part of the problem you mentioned.

          • The US is also building about 6GW of nuclear capacity right now, with more in the pipeline. If demand from car charging causes electricity prices to shoot up and we suffer a natural gas shortage again, then deploying more AP1000s will be the obvious choice and the market will do it even without a penny of subsidies or loan guarantees.

            With the experience Westinghouse gained in China, where from laying the foundation to completion they built an AP1000 in four years(!) I don’t foresee any problems on the electricity supply front.

          • The US is building four new reactors and finishing one that was started many years ago but not completed.

            In 2013 we closed four reactors and announced that a fifth would close in 2009.

            A few days ago it was announced that a sixth reactor, Vermont Yankee, would close before the end of the year.

            And a few days ago it was revealed that Exelon has lost money every year for the last five years on six reactors they own. Rumors are strong that they will announce the closure of some or all of these reactors in the coming months.

            The US has another dozen plus reactors which are in financial trouble and may close over the next few years.

            In addition, most of the US reactor fleet is aging out. Nearing the end of their 40 year design lifespan. Some might be granted licenses to operate an additional 20 years, but they would need expensive evaluation and refurbishing. There’s a good chance that the necessary cost would make them non-competitive.

            There are no serious plans to build any further reactors following the four now in construction.

            In short, nuclear is fading away in the US.

            EVs love wind power. Onshore wind generally blows harder at night when cars are parked. Demand is lower at night. EVs can be sitting there waiting for their (average) 1.5 hour charge and suck it up when supply is high.

            BTW, China built one reactor in 4.5 years. Their average build time is 5.5 years.

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