Elon Musk has been busy lately. Part Thomas Edison, part PT Barnum, he is the peripatetic head of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity, and also godfather to the Hyperloop. He has just returned from a whirlwind tour of Hong Kong, where he attended a conference for Asian tech entrepreneurs. He alsogave an interview to CNN and met with government leaders to convince them that the autonomous driving features of Tesla’s Autopilot software suite are safe to use on Hong Kong’s congested streets. Then he flew over to Paris, where he conducted a Q&A session at the local Tesla store with a gaggle of adoring fans.
As a result of all this jet setting and hobnobbing, he had a lot to say on a bunch of topics. Here’s a summary of the Tesla news from last week.
The Model 3 unveiling will not take place at the Geneva auto show, as some had speculated. Instead, it will happen in “late March” at an as yet undisclosed location. And it will feature only photographs, Musk said. There will be no fully configured prototype on hand. While prospective buyers may reserve one at that time, the company will continue to dribble out information about the car as the production date gets nearer. Right now, production is slated for some time in 2017. Tesla has never hit any of its intended release date targets in the past, so there may be some flexibility in that date.
Musk says the Model 3 will be built in China in “about three years.” China has high import duties on cars built in other countries. It is critical for Tesla to construct a factory in China if it wants to be competitive with other brands. For instance, just yesterday, Tesla announced the official price in China of the fully loaded Model X Signature Series with Ludicrous Mode enabled. That car costs over $140,000 here at home, but a whopping $225,000 in China.
Musk told his audience in Paris that Tesla will also build a European factory in the near future. He said the company is trying to choose a location that would please the most number of nations. He suggested maybe it would be built half in France and half in Germany, but then admitted he was operating on about 1 hour of sleep in the past 2 days and might not be thinking clearly on the subject!
Elon has a habit of dropping unexpected pearls of information while giving his impromptu conferences. In Paris, he explained why electric cars will not have 500 miles of range any time soon, something his audience was asking for. Basically, he said, a battery that would make that possible would be so large and expensive, it would be impractical. It would be like having a dragster engine in a passenger car because so little of its performance would be used in regular driving.
What he did say, according to Teslarati, was that the answer to long distance driving might be a tag-along trailer with an auxiliary battery, something that could be rented here and dropped off there. Tesla has already experimented with and largely discarded the idea of battery swapping. A small trailer might be just the thing to resolve any lingering range anxiety issues, especially if it could provide some extra cargo space as well.
Musk finished his journey by saying the SuperCharger network will be completed in France by the middle of this year. Then it will expand southward into Portugal, Spain and Italy while moving east into central Europe and Russia by the end of the year. While the rest of the automobile industry is dithering about charging infrastructure, Tesla is busy doing and forging its own path — as usual.
You can watch the entire video of Elon’s reception in Paris below. The question and answer session begins at about the 11 minute mark.