Elon Musk Expounds On Electric Airplanes & Exceptional Engineers

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During a recent Third Row Tesla and HyperChange podcast, the hosts asked Elon Musk if he has any plans to build electric airplanes — if not passenger jets, then maybe electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles like those coming from Joby, E-Hang, or Wisk. After all, any electric aircraft will need the most energy efficient batteries available. Since Tesla is presumed to be the world leader in manufacturing efficient batteries, it just makes sense it would be considering a move into the production of electric airplanes, right?

Joby air taxi
Credit: Joby Aviation

Actually, “no,” said Musk. Making airplanes is completely different than making cars or trucks, solar panels, or storage batteries. “I think it’s incredibly difficult to bring an aircraft to production and meet all the regulatory requirements worldwide. It’s a very difficult thing.” Then he added, “There aren’t any car companies that are also aircraft companies.”

Fossbytes reports, though, that he didn’t completely take making electric airplanes off the table. He simply said it would require skipping over a lot of other things he thinks are more important, like pushing the EV revolution forward, building the Hyperloop, ramping up production of the Solar Roof and Powerwall residential storage system, and maybe bringing a new lower-priced electric car to market. He said an eVTOL aircraft could come in the future after all those other items on his to-do list are taken care of. “All transport will be electric, except for rockets,” he said.

Finding Exceptional Engineers

The hosts then suggested Tesla’s newfound financial success and stratospheric stock price should make it possible to spend more on research and development. “That’s not how it works,” Elon said. “It’s not like if we just had more money you could spend it effectively on R&D. But if there was a factory producing excellent engineers, that would be true.”

Musk has recently reiterated his comments from 2014 that a person does not need a college degree to work for Tesla. He prefers people with “exceptional ability” rather than a degree from a prestigious school, according to a tweet on December 22, 2019. In an interview with AutoBild in 2014, Musk said, “There’s no need even to have a college degree at all, or even high school. If somebody graduated from a great university, that may be an indication that they will be capable of great things, but it’s not necessarily the case. If you look at, say, people like Bill Gates or Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, these guys didn’t graduate from college, but if you had a chance to hire them, of course that would be a good idea.”

So, you 12 year old prodigies out there, there’s still hope. If you have what it takes, there could be a place for you within Tesla in a few years, maybe in the electric airplane division!

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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