Tesla’s ‘Master Plan’ envisions car sharing, trucks and more

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E report • Posted: Friday, July 22, 2016

Tesla Motors Inc. CEO and co-founder Elon Musk envisions a future world where driverless Tesla electric vehicles zoom around towns, picking up passengers as needed. Individual car owners would allow the sharing, making money from their cars when not in use.

It’s part of his “Master Plan, Part Deux,” unveiled last night. Musk also wants to sell more electric cars that are affordable for most people, make automated driving 10 times safer than manual, and “seamlessly” integrate solar panels and battery storage. He revealed that Tesla is developing electric trucks.

The master plan update followed the blueprint he issued a decade ago, announcing how he wanted to make and sell electric vehicles and provide solar power.

“By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse,” Musk said in the post on Tesla’s website, which has been changed from teslamotors.com to tesla.com.

“Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.”

Tesla analysts had speculated that car sharing would be included in the master plan update. Musk had advertised more than a week ago that he’d be putting out the document.

Car sharing will work best once fully automated driving also is a reality, he said.

“When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere,” Musk wrote. “Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.

“You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you’re at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost,” Musk added.

He said that would lower the cost of ownership “to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla.” Most cars are in use by their owners for 5 to 10 percent of the day, he said, adding, “in cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars, Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.”

Musk projected it could be a while before fully automated cars are widely permitted. He said Tesla in the meantime will continue adding partial automation. Tesla has been under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration after a fatal car crash in May that involved a Model S on autopilot.

“When used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves, and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability,” Musk said.

Linking solar and storage

Tesla recently announced it planned to buy financially troubled SolarCity Corp. Musk is chairman of that company, as well, and his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive are SolarCity’s founders.

Musk said it’s necessary to “create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.”

He said that to do that, Tesla and SolarCity need to operate as one entity, and that “the time has come to bring them together.” Musk, the largest shareholder, has said he will abstain from the shareholder vote on the merger.

Tesla, which sells its Model S and Model X for close to $100,000 with popular options, has announced it is making a version 3, a car that would start at about $35,000 and probably sell for $42,000 with options. Musk in the master plan update said the company is focusing on its factory, so that cars can be made faster. That will allow for improvements with each iteration, he said.

“That is why Tesla engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the machine that makes the machine — turning the factory itself into a product,” he said.

In addition, he said, Tesla is looking into electric heavy-duty trucks and “high passenger-density urban transport.”

“Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year,” Musk said. “We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.”