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Elon's antics
Photo by Carolyn Fortuna | CleanTechnica.

Air Quality

Op-Ed: Tesla Is Too Established Now To Fail — Even With Elon’s Antics

The company currently has capacity to build about 2 million cars a year at 4 factories — in Fremont, California; Shanghai, China; Austin, Texas; and Berlin, Germany; with Mexico next on the list. It has set a goal of eventually building 20 million cars a year. Is this enough to offset the influence of Tesla’s mercurial CEO?

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There’s no argument against it: CEO Elon Musk, the self-described “free-speech absolutist,” has tarnished Tesla’s image. Elon’s antics are often silly, and his tweets can affect millions of people. Tesla, though, has had an outsized influence on vehicle electrification, charging infrastructure, and plug design. Those advances in automotive engineering cannot be undone, and legacy automakers and startups are playing a turbulent game of catchup.

And it’s more than the accomplishments Tesla has accrued that make the all-electric vehicle manufacturer nearly unstoppable: the company continually seeks out new, better, and more efficient approaches to powering, charging, and accessorizing its vehicles. Yes, the CEO of Tesla is bombastic and self-absorbed. But Elon’s antics can’t crush a company like Tesla that has set the standard for transportation’s place in a clean energy future.

Elon's antics

DALL.E creation by Carolyn Fortuna | CleanTechnica

Cathie Wood and her Ark Invest firm have continued selling their Tesla (TSLA) stock holdings, unloading more than 76,000 shares Thursday. Then, as Marketwatch’s AI generator reported, shares of Tesla Inc. shed 1.10% to $242.65 Friday, on what proved to be an all-around mixed trading session for the stock market. Tesla closed $72.02 short of its 52-week high ($314.67), which the company reached on August 16th. Trading volume (98.6 million) remained 37.2 million below its 50-day average volume of 135.8 million.

It didn’t help Tesla stock value that more of Elon’s antics were in the news. On the same day, Musk revealed on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) new details about his proposed cage match fight with Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg.

Should shareholders be worried? The Motley Fool says Tesla’s remarkable growth in Europe, despite the increased competition from Chinese and German automakers, is something “Tesla investors should get excited about.” The company currently has capacity to build about 2 million cars a year at 4 factories , in Fremont, California; Shanghai, China; Austin, Texas; and Berlin, Germany, with Mexico next on the list. It has set a goal of eventually building 20 million cars a year.

Let’s start with the givens — those parts of Tesla’s vertical alignment that are already in place and successful.

Bioweapon Defense Mode: Inspired by the air filtration systems used in hospitals, clean rooms, and the space industry, Tesla announced in 2016 that it had developed a HEPA filtration system capable of stripping the outside air of pollen, bacteria, and pollution before they enter the cabin. Bloomberg noted recently that, among carmakers, Tesla was “in the vanguard on clean air.” Its system systematically scrubs the air inside the cabin to eliminate any trace of these particles. The end result, the company says, is a filtration system hundreds of times more efficient than standard automotive filters, “capable of providing the driver and her passengers with the best possible cabin air quality no matter what is happening in the environment around them.”

Updates and new release: There’s no denying the success of the Tesla Model 3, the electric vehicle for the masses. With rumors abounding that Tesla could finally be preparing to launch its Model 3 “Highland,” which is expected to feature simplified components and, potentially, a lower price tag, the downward stock trend could be drastically altered with an actual company announcement. And the curiosity about the upcoming Tesla Cybertruck is seemingly endless in chat forums. Recent sightings of the Cybertruck have produced intriguing insights and sparked numerous reactions, especially regarding its purported exoskeleton.

Gigafactory Mexico: The governor of Nuevo León, Samuel Alejandro García Sepúlveda, told local newspaper Milenio that all information needed for the Tesla Gigafactory to be installed in the municipality of Santa Catarina is submitted and progressing through the system. “We do not yet have a date for when, but the good news is that all the permits, for the environment, energy, water, everything is already checked; it is advancing.” The Gigafactory will bring job creation and foreign investment to the area. “They are already in the final stage of the design of the new car, a new model,” García Sepúlveda explained, adding that Tesla will be able to start groundbreaking soon. He estimates that Musk will visit Nuevo León sometime this summer as construction begins. “So, now yes, with the design finished, what we know is that they are already finishing the production lines, the software, and everything that must be ready to start the plant,” he commented. He highlighted how Tesla is attracting other foreign direct investment, with over $600 million acknowledged since October 2021.

Full Self Driving: Musk keeps promising optimal results, and he posted on Twitter that FSD version 11.7.4 would be going to wide release within a week. Version 12, which was almost a total rewrite (nearly 99%) is being tested by the company’s QA drivers. It’s “too much code to go to the public right now,” Musk revealed, “but it is mind blowing, imo.” Critics continue to deconstruct FSD, with few positive takeaways. Then again, remember how the Cybertruck window shattered in its reveal? Now it’s nearly ready for the public. With arguments that the most valuable asset that Tesla’s base generates is data — Tesla’s advanced sensor suite installed across hundreds of thousands vehicles gathers billions of miles of data per year — the scale of its fleet and data gathering may give Tesla the necessary foundation to become the first company to deploy fully autonomous driving at scale. Maybe FSD will surprise us all.

Wireless charging on the horizon: Tesla recently invested in German startup Wiferion, which offers wireless charging for electric vehicles, including contactless wireless charging for industrial trucks, autonomous guided vehicles, and autonomous mobile robots. It’s another in a series of Tesla’s forward-looking moves that could make a potentially transformative technology mainstream. Tesla may decide to focus on the Wiferion’s tech for lower-powered electric and autonomous vehicles that serve last-mile destinations plus warehouses and factories.

Yet, Tesla acquired Wiferion out of a tiny available group of wireless charging. Why does wireless charging carry so much allure? Wireless charging can transmit grid power to vehicle batteries at up to 94% efficiency. It would be so much more streamlined than many public charging experiences are today — just drive your Tesla into a designated space, and electricity would beam into your battery though magnetic resonance. Customers could install a wireless receiver on their cars as an aftermarket upgrade and add their own floor-pad transmitters at home or in fleet-charging depots. A universal standard for wireless EV charging already exists, published in 2020 by the SAE International.

Final Thoughts

Elon’s antics haven’t halted Tesla’s trajectory of influence and innovation. Last year, many Tesla narratives focused on mercurial Musk. If the reveal of Master Plan 3 at the 2023 Tesla Shareholder Day was any indication, it’s the next steps, the 5-year plan, the long view that Tesla is taking. Master Plan 3 served to illuminate Tesla’s advancement of “a sustainable energy economy (that) is technically feasible and requires less investment and less material extraction than continuing today’s unsustainable energy economy.”

As an undertold story, the company is streamlined vertically, too, to integrate renewable energy generation and storage into residential buildings. It’s another strength that will uphold Tesla in times of Elon’s antics, which may serve, again and again, to be little more than a puerile distraction.

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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a Model Y as well as a Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.


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