Elon Musk spoke at the ONS 2022 Conference in Norway in a less than 25-minute interview with Xenia Wickett. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I have, its packed with so much important information. Elon got to the main points quickly, making this a fabulous interview.
Main Points in Interview
- Thoughts About Trust (Twitter)
- Taking The Set Of Actions That Are Most Likely To Lead To A Better Future
- 3 Pillars Of A Sustainable Energy Future: Sustainable Energy Generation, Stationary Battery Packs, Electric Vehicles
- Sustainable Rocket Propellant
- Looking Years Ahead At The Auto Industry
- What Are The Limiting Factors Governing The Rate At Which We Can Transition To Sustainable Energy?
- Update On Master Plan Part 3
- Is There A Limiting Function To The Transition To Sustainable Energy?
- China, Gigafactory Expansion, The Fundamental Good Of Tesla
- Approach To Risk, The Riskiest Thing Is No Action
- Caution in Developing Artificial Intelligence
- Two Goals: Starship To Orbit And Self-Driving Cars
Of course, Elon started out warmly thanking the Norwegian people,
“Thank you for inviting me and it’s an incredible honor to be here. I love Norway. And I just want to thank the leaders and the people of Norway for their long-standing support of electric vehicles and sustainable energy. I just want the people of Norway to know, that hey you have really made a difference. So thank you!”
Thoughts About Trust (Twitter)
In response to “what do you think about trust?“ Elon said,
“That’s really quite a philosophical question, and one could wax on at length about that. (laughter asking if talking about Twitter?) I do think, with respect to information, generally, people want to know that the information they are receiving is accurate, that it is representative of the full picture, and they want to be able to believe what they read and not feel that it’s overly biased or at least understand the nature of the bias.
I think one of the key things to trust is transparency, and for people to really know or understand, if it’s a social media company, what the algorithm is. We should open-source the algorithm so people can know it and critique it, and so it’s not a black box. And then if there are any modifications done by people who are at that social media company, it should be clear and transparent, so it’s not hidden.
I believe in the free flow of ideas, and just generally erring on the side of free speech, within the boundaries of the law. You can’t go beyond that without being arrested I think.”
Set Of Actions That Are Most Likely To Lead To A Better Future
“I don’t aim to disrupt for the sake of disrupting. It’s more like, what set of actions are more likely to lead to a better future? In order for humanity to have a compelling future for civilization, we must have a clear path to a sustainable energy future. That’s one of the things that I think everyone would agree with. I am not someone who would tend to demonize oil and gas, to be clear. This is necessary right now or civilization could not function. So I do think at this time, we actually need more oil and gas and not less. But simultaneously, moving as fast as we can to a sustainable energy economy. I thought the words of the Prime Minister were spot on. I am glad to hear that there is a large effort for ocean wind. That’s a massive untapped potential. I would say go even more than what the Prime Minister said frankly, I mean if you did a 100 x 100 array, of 10 MW systems, you would have 100-gigawatt capability. And then, you do need to combine that with stationary storage battery packs to buffer the energy, because sometimes the wind blows and sometimes it doesn’t blow, or it just blows hard. So you need to buffer it with stationary battery packs. Tesla and other companies are also making that.”
3 Pillars of Sustainable Energy Future: Sustainable Energy Generation, Stationary Battery Packs, Electric Vehicles
“The three pillars of a sustainable energy future are sustainable energy generation, which is hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar. I’m also pro-nuclear. I think we should really keep going with the nuclear plants. I know it’s an unpopular view in some quarters, and I think if you have a well-designed nuclear power plant, you should not shut it down. Especially right now.
But I try to say what I think is scientifically cogent, even if it is not popular. So the pillars are sustainable energy generation, but then you must also store the energy. The two main sources of sustainable energy, wind and solar, are intermittent, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. So you must buffer the energy in stationary battery packs. And then the third element obviously is electric vehicles. Electric cars, trucks, aircraft, boats. with the ironic exception of rockets.”
Sustainable Rocket Propellant
“We do have a plan for sustainably producing the rocket propellant, which is actually, almost 80% liquid oxygen. So liquid oxygen you can get obviously from the atmosphere. And then we are going with Methane fuel, which is 20% of the propellant, but that you can make also sustainably long term from CO2 and water, H2O which produces CH₄ and O₂ so that’s the sustainable long-term path for rocket propellant generation and that’s how it would have to be done on Mars, for example.
We do actually have some sustainable power generation for some of our propellant generation already, but it’s a small percentage now but will be a big percentage in the future.”
Car Industry Moving Rapidly Towards Electric
“I think we’ll see tremendous change over the next 5, 10, or 15 years. By 2030, I would say probably about half of all new cars will be electric. By 2035, it might be 80% or something like that. It could be even higher than those numbers, but the car industry is moving rapidly towards electric.
One country after another, and one state after another is making zero-emission mandates. California recently passed, I think, by 2035 all new cars can only be zero emission. So, clearly, the people of the earth, decided this is the way to go.
So we’ll see quite a tremendous change in that regard and if you look at Norway you will see kind of an advanced version of that because Norway has some of the highest, I believe Norway has gone to the majority are electric vehicles of new cars sold, which is great. Again, thank you! So, it’s pretty cool! (applause)”
What Are The Limiting Factors Governing Rate At Which We Can Transition To Sustainable Energy?
“What are the limiting factors governing the rate at which the world can transition to sustainable energy? I think it’s the rate at which one can grow battery production. So then, if you say, what are the constituents in the battery, in lithium-ion batteries? You’ve obviously got lithium, you’ve got the cathode, which is the main cathode materials are going to be metal, and that’s nickel, manganese, and iron. And on the anode side, it’s primarily carbon and graphite. So, in a sense, you’re sequestering a little bit of carbon in the battery, with some silicone added for energy density on the anode side. And then there’s the electrolytes and whatnot.
The main limitations are not that these metals are exceptionally rare, but that there’s a tremendous amount of processing equipment to take the ore and turn it into battery-grade materials. Because the battery grade anode and cathode have to be extremely pure in order for the battery to last for a long time. So, it’s sort of processing of those elements.”
Update on Master Plan Part 3
“I’m sort of writing this master plan part three, which is, what are the steps needed to scale sustainable energy, again, what are the limiting factors? And how can we potentially accelerate these? So hopefully, I’ll finish that in a month or two.”
In response to Xenis’s question, Can you give us a preview, what are the big steps, what are the gating functions? Elon said,
“Well, the materials that I mentioned are really essential. There’s not a raw material constraint, there’s actually a tremendous amount of Lithium. Lithium is almost everywhere, it’s one of the most common elements on earth, so is Iron, and so is Carbon. On the Iron you usually combine Phosphorus, so it’s Iron Phosphate (FePO4). So that will probably be the biggest chemistry that’s used. It’s not so much the raw materials as it is converting the raw materials into the highly purified form used in batteries. There’s a tremendous amount of processing that needs to happen for that at the sort of scale that is currently, you know, comparable to the oil and gas industry. The scale is just tremendous. So this is all happening, it’s happening fast. It’s just a question of what we could do to accelerate that, to go even faster. So this is happening, it’s just a question of when.”
Is There A Limiting Function To The Transition To Sustainable Energy?
Elon explains that he does not see a limiting function to the transition to sustainable energy, he explains it this way,
“I don’t see a limiting function, it’s really just, what actions can we take to have it be faster? And it’s going to be, increasing the rate at which we can convert the ore into battery-grade materials. hat will set the rate at which we can build electric vehicles and stationary battery packs to capture solar and wind.
What I’m saying, is this is an optimistic and positive message. I’m not suggesting at all, complacency. But just saying that things are moving in a good direction, and but obviously if we can make them go even faster that’s better.”
China, Gigafactory Expansion, The Fundamental Good Of Tesla
“Tesla is actually investing in production in China. so we have a large factory in Shanghai that we are continuing to expand outward and invest in the factory. We’re also investing in Europe with our factory just outside of Berlin. and in the US, with our factory just outside of Austin. [note: pictures of Austin factories appear at bottom of this article] We hope to announce a location for another Gigafactory perhaps later this year. So we’re going as fast as we can.
I’ve always said that the, I would say when you look at Tesla, the fundamental good that Tesla does, I think, sometimes it’s by profit, but rather by how many years will Tesla have accelerated the transition to sustainable energy? This is how I think one should look at it.
I think we have accelerated it to some degree already. You know, I think if it wasn’t for Tesla, the car industry would have transitioned to EVs much later.
It is an exponential curve, yes. Most people don’t know what an exponential curve means, but it’s a (moves hand in the upward direction). I think things are improving exponentially with respect to sustainable energy. but if we can make it go faster, all the better.
What will actually happen is, the transition from, it’s following an S curve. So you have an exponential increase, then linear, then logarithmic. (points hand into the air) that’s basically how any large industrial transition happens.”
Approach To Risk, The Riskiest Thing Is No Action
“I don’t sort of like, just arbitrarily seek risk. I think some things are risky, but if the stakes are important enough then you take the risk. (applause). The stakes are extremely important. Very fundamental to the future.
I think there are probably a lot of people in this room that do take a lot of risks. I literally just try to use the scientific method, frankly. What is the importance of the outcome? What is one risking, in order to achieve that outcome? Like I said, if the outcome is important enough, even if the probability of success is low, I think, still do it, in my view, some things are very important, and in order to have a good future, if we don’t do them then we are in big trouble, and so how much of a risk really is it? Because if we don’t take those actions we won’t have a good future. I think the riskiest thing would be no action.”
“We did have some guess that maybe there would be something happening in Ukraine, and so we did pre-position some STARLINK terminals there, just in case. And so that was helpful for the initial part of the invasion. And then we accelerated delivery of a lot of terminals within a few days of the invasion taking place and then the Ukrainian government tells me it’s been very helpful.
I do hope some peace can be achieved in Ukraine and Russia. I do think some thought should be given to, what’s the endgame there. I think the endgame will require some compromise on the part of both parties.”
Caution in Developing Artificial Intelligence
“Tesla‘s goal, from when we started it, has always been to accelerate sustainability, so that is still our primary goal by far. Our secondary goal is to solve at least real-world intelligence as it applies to self-driving cars, and then potentially with humanoid robots, so Tesla is in part an AI company and increasingly an AI company but it’s still primarily a sustainable energy company. I don’t think we need AI to solve sustainability. If that is happening, it might help us accelerate it.
I think we should also be cautious about AI, and just make sure that as we develop AI, that it does not get out of control, and that AI helps make the future better for humanity.
I think we should be more worried about AI‘s safety than we currently are. Especially, the future wars are going to be (and we’re seeing a taste of that with Ukraine), very much, drone wars. So if your drones are better than their drones, then you win, basically, it’s what will happen.”
Two Goals: Starship To Orbit And Self-Driving Cars
In response to the closing question, “what keeps you up at night?” Elon stated,
“I’m fundamentally a technologist, it’s kind of important, or an engineer, so, yes sometimes people call me a businessman, I have to do business, I have to have a group of people because I can’t just do this in a garage by myself.
But, I am fundamentally an engineer or a technologist and so the two technologies I am focused on trying to ideally, get done before the end of the year are getting our Starship to orbit, which I think is important for expanding consciousness beyond Earth and life beyond Earth. And then, having the Tesla cars be able to do self-driving. So have self-driving in wide release at least In the USA, and hopefully, potentially in Europe, depending on regulatory approval.”
Some of the main points made by Elon Musk in the Norway interview that really caught my attention:
- Twitter algorithm should be open-source, and Elon believes in the free flow of ideas and free speech.
- Elon explains that in order for humanity to have a compelling future for civilization, we must have a clear path to a sustainable energy future.
- When asked what are the limiting factors governing the rate at which we can transition to sustainable energy? Elon explains that Lithium, Iron and Carbon are plentiful. He says, “The main limitations are not that these metals are exceptionally rare, but that there’s a tremendous amount of processing equipment to take the ore and turn it into battery-grade materials. Because the battery grade anode and cathode have to be extremely pure in order for the battery to last for a long time. So, it’s sort of processing of those elements.”
- Similarly, Elon was asked again if there is a limiting function to the transition to sustainable energy, and he explains, “I don’t see a limiting function, it’s really just, what actions can we take to have it be faster? And it’s going to be, increasing the rate at which we can convert the ore into battery-grade materials. That will set the rate at which we can build electric vehicles and stationary battery packs to capture solar and wind.”
- We are moved to action by Elon’s explanation of risk: He says, “Like I said, if the outcome is important enough, even if the probability of success is low, I think, still do it, in my view. some things are very important, and in order to have a good future, if we don’t do them then we are in big trouble, and so how much of a risk really is it? Because if we don’t take those actions we won’t have a good future. I think the riskiest thing would be no action.”
- If you know Elon, he has warned us all about the dangers of AI many times before. Here is expresses great concern over developing artificial intelligence in the context of war. He cautions, “I think we should be more worried about AI’s safety than we currently are. Especially, the future wars are going to be (and we’re seeing a taste of that with the Ukraine), very much, drone wars. So if your drones are better than their drones, then you win, basically, it’s what will happen.”
- As the world’s Technoking, Elon explains he is most driven to get Starship to orbit this year and have Tesla cars be able to do self-driving. “But, I am fundamentally an engineer or a technologist and so the two technologies I am focused on trying to ideally, get done before the end of the year are getting our Starship to orbit, which I think is important for expanding consciousness beyond Earth and life beyond Earth. And then, having the Tesla cars be able to do self-driving.”
Exclusive to What’s Up Tesla – This article was created by Gail Alfar with the goal to preserve this interview in text or written form for the purpose of 1. education and 2. preserving the brilliant insight and words of Elon Musk. All Rights Reserved. September 4, 2022