Talking tech since 2003

Will there ever be an electric Tesla model that is affordable for the average American?  And is creating a civilization on Mars possible?  Elon Musk answered those questions at the All Things Digital conference on Wednesday.

Musk, co-founder of Tesla Motors and PayPal and arguably one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, said that he expects Tesla to offer a model that will cost around $30,000 in the next three to five years.  Musk said that while the Tesla Model S may seem pricey at $62,400 (including the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit), it’s actually not when you take into account the amount saved on gasoline.

“The price of the model S is actually less than it may seem at first because the cost of gasoline is so much more than the cost of electricity, so you save a lot of money,” Musk said.  He estimated a Tesla owner would save on average $2,000 per year on gasoline, so over seven years that would come out to $14,000 in savings (putting the cost of the car at closer to $48,000).

Musk compared cell-phone technology and gasoline cars to Tesla, which he said had to go through a number of iterations before they was affordable to the average consumer.  Tesla’s electric technology, by comparison, is moving much quicker.

“So with electric vehicles it’s similar, you’re trying to compete with gasoline cars that have had 150 years and trillions of dollars spent on them,” Musk said.  “I think if we can make it by our third generation, that’s pretty awesome.”

Filling up your Tesla is also going to get easier.  Tesla announced that it will expand its perpetually free Supercharger network, tripling its size by the end of next month, and adding on key routes like Vancouver to Portland (with Seattle in between) and Dallas to Austin. New connection points will open in Illinois, Colorado, New York and California. Soon you will be able to drive from New York to LA in your Model S, provided you don’t mind stopping for 20 minute recharges every couple-hundred miles.

Musk, who also founded Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) with a focus on advancing the state of rocket technology, also has his sights set on Mars.

He said that while Mars is a “fixer-upper” of a planet, it’s the only planet climate-wise that has the potential of inhabiting humans.  But wait, isn’t it too cold?  I always think back to the Elton John lyric:

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids, in fact it’s cold as hell.”

But Musk has an answer for that.  We could heat Mars up with our greenhouse gases! Yes, genius!

“Mars is on the other side of Earth and it’s colder than Earth, but the temperature on Mars actually gets above room temperature on Earth on a hot day in the summer,” Musk said.  “And you could warm Mars up with Greenhouse gases- kind of the opposite thing of what we’re doing on Earth.”

While moving to Mars may be a far-fetched idea, Musk believes that thinking about the future as being a better and more hopeful time is what drives him.

“Its really important to me, “Musk said, “If you look to the future, that it’s an inspiring, exciting thing- that the future is better than the present, or at least has a good chance of being better than the present, and I think that’s the main driver for me.”

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