So many of us were inspired by the “Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me)” (2006) — the idea of being “energy positive” sparked a thrill for the future. “Master Plan, Part Deux” (2016) invoked the middle class hope of “accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”
But much has changed since 2016 — and 2006, for that matter. Is it time for a new Master Plan that speaks to the pressures and reality of the climate crisis and Musk’s ability to lead the charge?
This week Bloomberg Hyperdrive revisited Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s two Master Plans, calling them “endearing and hugely effective in burnishing Musk’s reputation as a visionary.” The article was also relatively critical of Musk’s inability to pull off many of the original planned accomplishments while suggesting that cautious optimism is warranted for Tesla’s future plans.
Musk tweeted a few months back that he was working on a new master plan. What will his updated treatise say?
Working on Master Plan Part 3
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 17, 2022
How successful were the two master plans in achieving their objectives? What updates should a Tesla Master Plan Mẹta* include to reflect our current era of technological promise, marketplace competition, and climate emergency?
Essential Truths in the 2006 Master Plan
The original Master Plan awakened us to reflect how important it is to lower global carbon emissions. We would have to alter our concept of what it meant to think about personal transportation — but most of us would join in someday, not immediately, as Musk outlined that it would only be the elite who’d be driving a Tesla in the short term.
We learned that Tesla had a long range plan that began with appealing to the high end of the auto market, where customers were prepared to pay a premium for a sporty all-electric vehicle. Musk explained that any new technology initially has high unit cost before it can be optimized, but he would drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.
The Tesla Roadster was a niche sports car that cost more than $100,000. About 2,450 units of the vehicle were sold over 5 years. The realization of a sporty 4 door family car at roughly half the price point of the Tesla Roadster emerged in 2012 with the Tesla Model S. It sold for $57,400, at a time when the average price of a new car or light truck was just a bit over $30,000.
So, in essence, the plan to build a sports car and use that money to build a somewhat more affordable electric car and use that money to build an even more affordable car did happen. The ancillary concept to create zero-emission electric power generation options took a bit more time and appeared on the scene with a whole lot less fanfare — the Powerpack, Powerwall, and SolarCity.
Did “Master Plan, Part Deux” Live up to the Dream?
Tesla seemed ready to integrate energy generation and storage in 2016. Acquiring SolarCity for $2.86 billion seemed to many investors to be a bailout (Musk’s cousins were the founders as well as CEO and CTO, while Musk was the company’s chairman), but Musk was convinced that Tesla needed to scale Powerwall and that buying SolarCity would break down the barriers inherent to separate companies. Since then, SolarCity’s promise has been stymied by problems ranging from manufacturing to installation. It still installs a lot of solar roofs, but not as many as it once did or as many as it was projected to install by now.
Musk outlined that, “with the Model 3, a future compact SUV, and a new kind of pickup truck, we plan to address most of the consumer market.”
The intro for the masses to Tesla came with the 2019 Model 3. It arrived at a price somewhere above the $35,000 promise, worked its way down to that goal, but then rose in price again. The SUV or crossover version of that, the Model Y, has become a huge success — it represented 1 out of 3 new EVs registered in the US in Q1 2022.
The promised Tesla Semi trucks, Cybertrucks, and buses have not come onto the vehicle scene. Heavy-duty trucks and high-passenger-density urban transport have not been prioritized as much as ramping up production and sales of the Model 3 and Model Y.
The decision to become a manufacturer “designing the machine that makes the machine” has become reality, however. A tour of Giga Texas reveals the robotic advances in Tesla manufacturing capability.
The idea of full self-driving autonomy to reduce automotive fatalities was noble. The beta program of extensive internal validation, which needed to meet a level in which Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, has not been reached.
Summoning a Tesla from “pretty much anywhere” or having it “generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation” isn’t yet being seen by vehicle owners. Musk and team will need to create a network if Tesla is to be a competitor to Uber or Lyft, but there’s no trial network running that would at least allow human drivers to give rides for a fee.
Thus, the goals to create solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage, expand the Tesla EV product line to address all major segments, develop viable self-driving capability, and enable a Tesla to make money for its owners have only been partially achieved.
Musings about Master Plan Mẹta
Can’t wait to hear #TSLA’s master plan 3. The optionality, verticality, & exponentials @elonmusk & team can take the company is truly mind boggling at this point. All for the greater good of humanity. Why would anyone not invest in this once in a lifetime company!? 🤷
— Doctor Jack (@DoctorJack16) March 20, 2022
It’s time for you, dear CleanTechnica reader, to create your Tesla wish list. What endeavors would you like to see Tesla undertake with a 5- or 10-year market implementation goal?
The Ford F-150 Lightning has won hearts and minds, not with messages of reduced emissions and pushing back climate change, but with a whole suite of capabilities that internal-combustion vehicles simply don’t offer. Should the Tesla Cybertruck be at the top of the Tesla to-do list? Is the Cybertruck, with its futuristic styling, an equivalent competitor to the Lightning, or would you prefer to see a Tesla pickup with more run-of-the-mill styling?
Musk stated that a “lower cost vehicle than the Model 3 is unlikely to be necessary.” Do you agree? Would Tesla valuation increase if middle and lower-middle class individuals could buy a Tesla?
Are the gaps in “Master Plan, Part Deux” of volume production of electric semi trucks and buses important to you to see realized? How about a configurable robovan?
What improvements would you like to see with over-the-air updates? With data privacy? With the Supercharger network?
Do you see yourself allowing your Tesla to take control with full-self driving?
Should Tesla set the global trend for sustainable material sourcing?
Is accessible, mainstream, and affordable solar something you feel is important to achieve energy freedom?
Would more in-house parts production enhance Tesla’s delivery capacity by detouring around supply chain blockages?
What about lithium mining and processing, or nickel mining?
What role do general-use robots or factory robots have in Tesla’s next master plan?
In essence, what messages do you have for Elon Musk and the Tesla board as they look to the future of all-electric transportation and renewable energy generation?
* Mẹta means “three” in Yoruba
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