Many of you are aware of the growing popularity of Tesla electric cars among the rich and environmentally-conscious. Tesla Motors produces high-end electric sports cars that have twice the energy efficiency of the Prius. But flashy sports cars are only the start; the eccentric CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, plans to save the world.
The grand scheme is to mass-produce affordable electric cars, thereby breaking dependence on oil and drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But as the environmentally astute of you will be quick to point out, the switch from gas to electric will merely shift greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes to power plants.
Enter phase two of the plan! In Musk’s spare time he is also the chairman of SolarCity, a solar energy company that is close to creating lithium-ion batteries that store electricity generated from solar panels. These batteries can, in theory, power a Tesla car and possibly even an entire home. These batteries would make Tesla vehicles totally emissions-free and eliminate the need for fossil fuel-burning power plants to power electric vehicles.
The home energy storage market does not exist, and Tesla is trekking into uncharted territory with the outcome of this venture remaining nebulous. Making the technology affordable will be a difficult hurdle to overcome, but it is easy to see the potential marketing successin locations that receive abundant sunlight, such as the southwestern United States.
In addition to home energy storage units, Tesla is building a $5 billion “Gigafactory” in Nevada to produce more lithium-ion batteries from solar energy. By 2020 they estimate that the factory will generate enough batteries to power 200,000 Tesla cars without any greenhouse gas emissions.
In light of the recent exposé on the nasty side effects of biofuels and natural gas, solar energy seems to be our best hope for sustainable energy. Musk’s James Bond villain-esque cult of personality may just be what we need to break our dependence on oil and save the world.