Tesla’s Elon Musk reveals plan for electric trucks, solar power for homes and more

Tesla currently makes a luxury sedan, the Model S, and a luxury crossover, the Model X.

By: AP | Detroit | Updated: July 22, 2016 9:25 am
elon-musk Elon Musk outlined the products in his much-anticipated “master plan” for Tesla. (File photo) 

Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk Wednesday unveiled an ambitious plan to expand the company into electric semi trucks and buses, car sharing and solar energy systems.

In a blog post titled “Master Plan, Part Deux,” Musk sketched a vision of an integrated carbon-free energy enterprise offering a wider range of vehicles, and products and services beyond electric cars and batteries. He restated his argument that Tesla should acquire and integrate the operations of solar panel installer SolarCity Corp, where Musk is chairman and a major shareholder.

The plan did not detail how new projects like electric trucks or public transit vehicles would be financed.

Both Tesla and SolarCity are burning cash. Tesla in May sold about $1.7 billion in new shares, indicating much of that will be used to accelerate development of its new Model 3 car lineup and reach a production pace of 500,000 vehicles a year by 2018, two years ahead of an earlier plan.

Musk summarized the plan saying Tesla aimed to “create stunning solar roofs (for homes) with seamlessly integrated battery storage. Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments. Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning. Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it.”

Musk said he envisions Tesla owners allowing others to use their vehicles through a smartphone application. He indicated there will be a “Tesla shared fleet,” but did not offer details of how that fleet would be managed.

Rival automakers are pursuing some of these goals as well.

“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,” he said. Such a service would put Tesla in competition with ride hailing services such as Uber or Lyft.

Musk said all future Tesla products will have fully self-driving capability, including trucks and buses, which he said would be unveiled next year.

Most major automakers, as well as internet search company Alphabet Inc, are investing heavily in automated driving technology.

Germany’s Daimler AG is working on automated heavy trucks and electric commercial vehicles. General Motors Co and Toyota Motor Corp are among the auto companies working on car sharing and forging alliances with ride hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber Technologies Inc to break into the growing market for services built around vehicles.

On June 21, Musk proposed that Tesla buy SolarCity. He outlined a combined company that could provide consumers with the tools for a largely carbon-free lifestyle – electric cars recharged with electricity generated by SolarCity solar panel systems, or stored in the home using battery packs produced by
Tesla’s battery Gigafactory under construction near Reno, Nev.
Musk owns 22 per cent of SolarCity’s shares, and has outlined plans to offer buyers of Tesla electric vehicles a solar power generation and battery storage system. Tesla on June 22 filed applications to use the Tesla name for solar energy systems and services, such as monitoring solar panels.

Tesla shares rose 1.4 per cent in trading Wednesday, ahead of Musk’s announcement. SolarCity shares were up 2.6 per cent.

On Monday, SolarCity said it raised $345 million to fund projects, and increased its debt facility by $110 million.

Tesla faces challenges on other fronts.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the safety of the “Autopilot” system that allows Tesla vehicles to guide themselves on a highway with the driver’s hands off the wheel for extended periods.

The NHTSA probe followed a May 7 crash in which the driver of a Tesla Model S was killed when the car drove under a tractor trailer on a Florida highway.

Musk said in a tweet earlier this week that Tesla is working with Robert Bosch GmbH on improvements to the Autopilot system’s radar sensors.

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