Enlarge /. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, will attend an opening ceremony of the Model Y program manufactured by Tesla China in Shanghai, east China, on January 7, 2020
Xinhua / Ding Ting via Getty Images
On Wednesday afternoon, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk answered questions from investors after the company's latest quarterly results were released. The headlines say Tesla chose Texas as the location for its next factory. When asked how many cars this new car factory could build, Musk said with a giggle at the call "long-term – a lot".
Musk declined to speak about new Tesla electric vehicles that go beyond those already known. "It is reasonable to assume that at some point we would build a compact vehicle," he said before pointing out that the 3 and Y models had a long way to go.
The greatest increase in value in history
Musk still believes that the introduction of a fully autonomous driving system will play a crucial role for Tesla, and he predicted that, thanks to a much higher load factor, it would increase the value of a car fivefold. Regarding this program, the "most important milestone is the transition of the autonomy system – or the AI of the car – from thinking in 2.5D, the partially temporally correlated image recognition to 4D. What we have done so far is really mostly 2D and not well correlated in time It's difficult to convey how much better a 4D system would work, "said Musk.
This architectural change has not yet been carried over to customer cars, but Musk predicted it would happen later this year. "Then it will be a long march of the Nines," he said, referring to an effort to improve the safety margin from (for example) 99.999 percent to 99.999999 percent. "How much better than humans does it have to be?" he asked, adding that "any size is very expensive". Musk then said we should be concerned about the direction AI research is headed and that "smart people can't imagine that a computer is much smarter than it is".
Until Tesla's Robotaxi service becomes available, Tesla will offer commercial insurance coverage.
Build cars more efficiently
Tesla gets "much better" at building cars, Musk said when asked about the "alien dreadnought." However, he noted that "10,000 percent more technology is required to build a factory than the product itself." Production in Shanghai is more efficient than in the United States, a trend that would accelerate with the company's third plant in Germany. To get there, cars have to be made that may look the same as in the United States or China. However, Musk said that they would be very different under the skin to make production easier. "The architecture of model Y built in Berlin will be fundamentally different," he said.
Further redesigns of existing vehicles could result from Tesla's experiment as an insurer. Citing the high cost of accident repair, he said that in the future we can "customize the design of the car and the way it is repaired." (Other insurance treats included a future Auto-UX that could warn drivers not to speed up unless they wanted their premium to increase, and Tesla's desire to hire "high-energy actuaries, revolutionary actuaries".)
The current supply chain efficiency – or lack thereof – was also increased when Musk was asked about the current demand for Tesla's electric vehicles. "The cost was associated with having to use planes to transport parts," he said, adding that short-term improvements include changes to the Y body rear body casting at the California factory that were made from two parts to a single one Pieces were converted. "Demand is currently exceeding supply," said Musk.
In order to make every factory more efficient, more components have to be procured on site. In the Shanghai Gigafactory, he said that local content increased 5 to 10 percent per month and "should be 80 percent by the end of the year." And the Berlin Gigafabrik is well located – "a ton of our suppliers are only a few hundred kilometers from the factory," he said. In addition, battery cells for Berlin are manufactured on site.
After all, Musk had some thoughts for European legislators. "Labor mobility in Europe is low. I would recommend changing it. Someone wants to leave the company and join another company – they have to spend six months doing nothing called gardening," he said.
Iron phosphate vs. Nickel-based cells?
Some of the most interesting information about the call followed a question about the Tesla Semi. Production of this high-performance battery electric vehicle is scheduled for later this year, and Tesla will use the first series semis internally to transport batteries from the Nevada Gigafactory to its auto plant in Fremont, California. And to have enough energy-tight cells for the Semi (and other vehicles), Tesla will switch to using cheaper iron-phosphate cell chemistry in vehicles made in China.
"It is very important to have a mass-efficient and far-reaching package," said Musk. "What we see in passenger cars has made our overall vehicle efficiency so good that we feel comfortable with an iron-phosphate battery pack (in the Chinese model 3)," he said. In fact, no other company can currently keep up with Tesla when it comes to the efficiency of electric drives. The change in Chinese chemistry will take place in 2020, and Musk predicted that these vehicles would have a "nearly 300 mile" range. The new normal for range in US EPA terms (for a new BEV) will be about 300 miles – call it about 500 km, "he said.
Musk demanded more raw materials for battery production. "All mining companies out there please mine more nickel," he asked enthusiastically, adding that it must be mined efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner.
In the long term, Tesla Energy will be as big as the auto business, Musk predicted. "Tesla's mission is to promote sustainable energy. Both batteries and solar will be huge, and they must be important for a sustainable future. The real limitation to Tesla's growth is cell production at an affordable price," he said. This is known as the "fundamental scaling limitation" of the company. Lithium-ion batteries are already cheaper than ever, but the price is still high enough that 300-mile BEVs remain more expensive to manufacture than their conventionally powered cousins.
"From mining to refining to cathode and anode formation, whatever the term, cell formation will determine the growth rate. We expect to expand the CATL and LG business. There is still Battery Day to say much more. " he said, referring to an event Tesla is holding in mid-September.
Musk was asked about the trade-off between profitability and affordability of cars to drive the introduction of electric vehicles. "We can go beyond industry margins and make the car affordable for almost everyone," he said. "There is good value for money and then affordability. If people don't have enough money in their bank account, then they have this great thing that nobody can buy," he said, adding, "Our cars are not affordable Enough – we have to make progress on that. We don't have to go bankrupt, of course, but we don't try to be too profitable. One or two percent, it's not too crazy. Easily profitable and maximize growth, make the cars as affordable as possible possible, "said Musk.