Does Elon Musk, the chairman of Tesla Motors and Solar City as well as the CEO of spaceflight startup SpaceX, see a conflict between saving the planet through electric cars and solar power, and burning 30,000 gallons of kerosene per space launch?
Not even close, the entrepreneur said Wednesday.
He was briefing entrepreneurs and investors at the AlwaysOn GoingGreen conference in Sausalito on his passion for building a clean-energy future here on earth, as well as moving the human race off of it someday.
"I'm quite confident that the sins of SpaceX are more than made up by the virtues of Solar City and Tesla," the 37-year-old co-founder of PayPal said in response to an audience member's critique after watching a video of SpaceX's launch of its latest kerosene-oxygen fueled rocket, the Falcon 9.
Musk focused on the role he believes Tesla Motors is playing in pushing mainstream automakers to take all-electric vehicles seriously, as well as the innovations that he feels Solar City is bringing to the residential solar market.
Musk, born in South Africa, made his name and fortune as co-founder of PayPal, which eBay bought for about $1.5 billion in 2002. He has continued to attract the spotlight as an early investor in Tesla Motors Inc., a California electric-car startup that has rolled out a $100,000 sports car and plans to launch a $60,000 sedan, Model S, in 2010 (see Tesla to Make Model S in San Jose). Musk is Tesla's product architect and chairman.
Musk said Tesla hopes to see its new plant turning out as many as 20,000 Model S sedans per year.
Responding to criticism of the high price for Tesla's vehicles, Musk said that gasoline-fueled cars were initially "toys for rich people" before they became available to the masses.
Predicting a similar fate for electric cars, he said that Tesla was "confident in being able to get to a $30,000 car, or perhaps a $20,000 car, in partnership with a major car company" in the future.
The company has previously aired its plans for its cheaper third model, a compact sports car expected to cost between $30,000 and $35,000, and in February told Greentech Media it planned to partner with a large automaker to produce it (see Tesla to Big Three: Let's Be Friends and Tesla: We'll Build Electric Sedans in California).
Musk also mentioned the possibility of an all-electric SUV built on the Model S frame.
That would seem to contradict what Darryl Siry, Tesla Motors' vice president of sales and marketing, said in August when he told AutoBlog.com that the company had no plans to build a SUV on the Model S platform.
Potential new models such as the SUV and the compact car could drive production up to 40,000 to 50,000 vehicles a year, Musk said.