Elon Musk Throws Shade At Apple, German Automakers - InformationWeek

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10/10/2015
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Elon Musk Throws Shade At Apple, German Automakers

Tesla CEO Elon Musk talks electric cars and emissions scandals -- and throws some shade at Apple, Toyota, and German automakers. However, he later backed off some comments in a Tweet.

Apple's Project Titan: 8 Rumors We're Following
Apple's Project Titan: 8 Rumors We're Following
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Elon Musk, the charismatic CEO of electric carmaker Tesla, has never been one to shy away from speaking his mind. In an interview with the German business newspaper Handelsblatt this week he provided some candid insights on Apple and other companies.

Musk took the opportunity to reference Apple's recent poaching of Tesla employees, which the report referred to as the company's most important engineers.

Apple recently hired Jamie Carlson, a former senior engineer at Tesla, reportedly to help develop Project Titan, the codename for the company's alleged electric car project.

"We always jokingly call Apple the Tesla Graveyard," Musk told the paper. "They have hired people we've fired … If you don't make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I'm not kidding."

All ribbing aside, Musk, who has previously challenged other tech firms to focus on developing electric vehicles, also had warm words for Apple, though he was measured in his enthusiasm.

Elon Musk
(Image: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr)

Elon Musk

(Image: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr)

"It's good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches," Musk said. "You can't just go to a supplier like Foxconn and say: 'Build me a car.' But for Apple, the car is the next logical thing to finally offer a significant innovation. A new pencil or a bigger iPad alone were not relevant enough."

Later, Musk sent out a Tweet that backed off on some of the Apple comments.

"Yo, I don't hate Apple. It's a great company with a lot of talented people. I love their products and I'm glad they're doing an EV," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

In the intreview with the paper, Musk also outlined his plan for Tesla, which, despite its high profile and resoundingly good reviews, has yet to turn a profit -- something he acknowledges can't continue indefinitely.

"I hope to be profitable next year. I agree, we cannot be making losses forever. This year we'll be investing a lot into the manufacturing ramp-up of the Model X, and in the long term, the Model 3 as well," he explained. "So our goal from next year onwards is to be cash-flow positive. But we wouldn't slow down our growth for the sake of profitability."

Although Musk credited German companies like Bosch and Dräxlmaier for being integral to Tesla's manufacturing process, he used Volkswagen as an example of the limits of fossil fuel technology, saying the company had to cheat in order to appear competitive.

Musk also chastised Daimler and Japanese carmaker Toyota for not being ambitious enough with their own electric car efforts.

[Read about Toyota's $50 million AI investment.]

"The problem that we found with programs we did with Toyota and with Daimler was that they ended up being too small," he said. "They basically just calculated the amount they needed to keep the regulators happy and made the program as small as possible. We don't want to do programs like that. We want to do programs that are going to change the world."

The interview follows the debut of Tesla's latest vehicle, the Model X, a sport utility vehicle that features advanced safety features and Falcon Wing doors, and that boasts seating for up to seven passengers.

The most eye-catching feature is the Falcon Wing doors, which require only a foot of clearance. The doors articulate up and out of the way, allowing passengers to enter from both front and rear directions.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

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TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
10/12/2015 | 1:09:21 PM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
@Susan, I've got to side with Gary on this one also. He covered the reasons perfectly. Everyone likes the idea of reducing pollution but, other than the Amish, I see very few people riding a horse instead of driving a car.

I'm not sure if you live in a city or not. But you lived in Green Bay like I do and occasionally drive back to Ohio where you grew up to visit friends, you'd see how very far we have to go to put in charging stations. For a lot of that trip, you are a long way between gas stations.

And think of the business model of gas stations versus charging stations. Are charging station owners going to get wholesale electricity and upcharge it a few cents to make their money? Or are you depending on electric car makers, the government, the electric companies, etc to put up all these charging stations in the middle of nowhere?

My daughter turns 12 tomorrow, I'd be shocked if she sees this in her lifetime, much less the years I have left on earth. And the argument of batteries versus another technology like hydrogen is valid also. Just because batteries can work now and hydrogen not so much, doesn't make it the right choice in the long run. While I admire Musk and his ideals, this is by no means a slam dunk like indoor plumbing over outhouses.

 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/12/2015 | 5:15:29 AM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
Hydrogen cell is another interesting technology. However, conversion, infrastructure and transport costs have not always been in its favor.

Battery technology on the other hand has been making a lot of progress. For instance, the cost of a battery is at around $275/kWh at present and it is predicted to reach $150/kWh by 2020. This is beneficial to the electric car industry but, it also provides benefits to solar energy and the smart grid.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
10/12/2015 | 4:28:51 AM
Re: Competition
@soozyg, vehicles with electric engines and mobile technology have some similarity. These products have a defined physical form and user requirements. A mobile phone has to store enough energy to sustain operations for an average day's usage and a vehicle has to store enough energy to drive for X amount of miles.

However, there are a few major differences as well. Cost is one, a mobile phone is on average a $500 product and a vehicle can cost $30,000. If a smartphone's battery dies 15 minutes before reaching home then, it is a minor inconvenience. But, if a vehicle loses power -- a tow truck is a major inconvenience.

Technology develops in stages, it can be extremely interrelated and creating an interrelated technology product is profitable. Similarities and differences are equally important otherwise, it is equally easy to link fire technology with a space program and lose vast amounts of capital.
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2015 | 10:23:32 PM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
Gotcha. I guess I thought there was a way to store it but that makes sense.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2015 | 8:36:06 PM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
If they do, it's very, very little. Solar panels deliver power only in proportion to the sunlight they receive. That's why, when someone says a "300 megawatt" solar plant, that's only up to 300 megawatts during the day. How close it actually comes to 300 megawatts, even during the day, depends on how brightly the sun shines. That's why there is starting to be some talk about getting serious about this, and combining solar with the cleanest type of carbon-based power generation, which is natural gas. When the sun shines, turn off the gas. If the sun shines a bit, burn some gas. No sun? Then blast the gas.
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2015 | 8:21:16 PM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
to store the energy generated when the sun shines and the wind blows for the time when sun isn't shining and wind isn't blowing.

@Gary,

Point of information: Do solar panel work on cloudy days? Even on rainy days there is sun. Do solar panels not capture sun?

 
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2015 | 8:13:32 PM
Re: Competition
@Brian,

Interesting. Do you think mobile technology and engines are related like that? Is all technology connected like that so if you create X technology product it is just a matter of time before you can create Y product?
soozyg
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soozyg,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2015 | 8:10:33 PM
electric
Tesla, which, despite its high profile and resoundingly good reviews, has yet to turn a profit 

--Why not? because the public on the whole is still reluctant to go electric?
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
10/11/2015 | 2:29:59 PM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
No, as a matter of fact, that isn't fast enough for me. Nor is it fast enough for most consumers, when they get down to actually making a buying decision, and not just posturing. Plus, the electricity that goes into the charge, after you drive 100 miles looking for a charging station and then finish waiting for three hours for your turn, will have been generated by coal, a nuke, or at best, natural gas.

When and if the time comes that a decent battery can actually be made available to the public, there will have to be a few hundred billion dollars in investment to roughly double North America's electrical generating capacity. And, that generating capacity will all have to be solar and wind, with another titanic deployment of the new storage batteries at the new generating plants to store the energy generated when the sun shines and the wind blows for the time when sun isn't shining and wind isn't blowing.

I'm not holding my breath.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
10/11/2015 | 10:38:27 AM
Re: We want to do programs that are going to change the world.
Gary, 

Tesla's Supercharger charges Tesla's electric car very fast. After finding a Supercharger station, you can charge a Tesla Model S while having a cup of coffee and a snack. Your Model S app will tell you when your car is charged. Isn't that fast enough for you?

It's not only how fast it charges what you need to value, though. The environmental benefits that bring electric cars can't be measured just for how long it takes for the car to fully charge. Or, are you going to tell me that it's more important to keep cars that run on gasoline polluting everyone's environment? 

-Susan 
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