Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared some thoughts in a recent interview with Financial Times on Tesla’s aspiration to reach the goal of 20 million electric cars produced annually by 2030. Peter Campbell asked Elon Musk what the business would look like by 2030 to make 20 million EVs per year. After pointing out that this wasn’t a forum for announcing new Tesla products, Elon Musk said,
“The 20 million by 2030 is an aspiration, not a promise. And the reason for aiming for something like that is there are approximately two billion cars and trucks in the world and for us to really make a dent in sustainable energy and electrification, I think we need to replace at least one percent of the fleet per year to really be meaningful. And that’s where the 20 million units comes from.
“Let’s try to replace one percent of the global fleet of two billion cars and trucks per year. That’s our aspiration. It’s not a promise; it’s an aspiration. I think we’ve got a good chance of getting there and people will see based on the products that we unveil — will be able to judge for themselves whether that goal is realistic or not.”
Although Elon Musk emphasized that this Tesla target is aspirational, Tesla’s been working towards this goal for some time now and just recently opened two new gigafactories.
During Tesla’s 2021 Annual Shareholder meeting, Tesla’s Chairman of the Board Robyn Denholm spoke about this goal. She recapped the previous year in which Tesla had delivered over 800,000 vehicles, had started new production lines in Shanghai, and had achieved other milestones before leading up to the goal of 20 million EVs per year by 2030, which Tesla initially disclosed in its 2020 Impact Report.
“At Tesla, we strive to be the best on every metric relevant to our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. In order to maximize our impact, we plan to continue increasing our production volumes and the accessibility of our products. In more concrete terms, this means that by 2030 we are aiming to sell 20 million electric vehicles per year (compared to 0.5 million in 2020) as well as to deploy 1,500 GWh of energy storage per year (compared to 3 GWh in 2020).”
I also think what Robyn Denholm said about Tesla’s help in changing the perception of EVs and cementing the certainty of the future of EVs is important to revisit.
“Our mission of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy remains at the center of what we do. Over the last twelve months, Tesla has continued to help shift the public perception of electric vehicles, and it wasn’t too long ago that many people were still questioning the future of EVs. I would say that today, that’s no longer the case.”
“There is no doubt that the transition to sustainable transportation and the transportation industry is turning electric. In many places around the world, you can’t drive down the street without seeing many Teslas — which, to me, is an incredibly proud thing and a testament to our progress.
“While our performance to date has surpassed many common expectations, we believe that we’re only at the beginning of the long journey ahead that we have. As we disclosed in our Impact Report this year, by 2030 we are aiming to sell 20 million electric vehicles per year, and deploy 1,500 gigawatt-hours of energy storage per year.”
Prediction: Tesla Will Meet Its Aspiration Of 20 Million EVs Per Year
In the FT interview, Elon Musk spoke about Tesla’s incredible team and mentioned that the sheer number of achievements Tesla has accomplished is mind-boggling. And when one looks at the work Tesla has done over the past four years, I think you’d agree. In 2014, many people doubted and outright mocked Elon Musk when he predicted that Tesla would sell 500,000 EVs in 2020.
Elon Musk added that Tesla’s annual growth rates are faster than any large manufactured product in the history of the earth.
“I think the next fastest was the growth of the Model T and we’re faster than the Model T. So, if that growth rate continues, then obviously we will reach 20 million vehicles a year. But we may stumble and not reach that goal. But I’d say it’s roughly equally difficult to have gotten to this point as it will be to get to 20 million.”
Although I am optimistic that Tesla will achieve its goal of 20 million EVs per year, I think the uncertainties Elon Musk mentioned will be challenging. The challenges Elon Musk spoke about in the interview included raw materials and the supply chain.
“There are some raw material constraints we see coming in lithium production probably in about three years. And in cathode production, the cathode — the two main cathode choices are nickel and iron phosphate.”
Elon added that although iron is plentiful, with the earth being made up of 32% iron in composition, phosphate is a bit more of a challenge.
“The phosphate is slightly more of a challenge but still quite common. So I do not see any fundamental scaling constraints — and lithium is also quite common. Lithium is practically everywhere. So, this is not a question of a shortage as though it’s some rare element.
“It’s really just that the lithium mining and especially the refining capacity and that of taking iron and phosphorous and turning it into battery-grade iron phosphate or nickel and turning it into battery-grade nickel is it’s really the equipment. I think this is the single biggest constraint would be the equipment necessary to convert the ore into battery-grade materials.”
Elon Musk added that Tesla is working on these challenges with its suppliers, so he wasn’t saying that this was impossible to solve, but it is one of the problems Tesla has to address if it’s going to reach its aspiration of 20 million vehicles per year by 2030. I think that not only will Tesla get there, but over the next decade, we will probably look back and see just how Tesla impacted the mining industry itself.