Home to the Big Three automakers and known for its opposition of direct-to-customer car sales, we can’t imagine Detroit being top of Elon Musk’s list of cities he loves to visit.
But last week while Detroit was hosting the annual North American International Auto Show, Tesla’s driven CEO headed into the heart of Motor City to talk at the Automotive News World Congress event at the Cobo Centre and to ‘encourage’ some of the world’s biggest automakers to ‘accelerate their electric car programs.’
Despite Tesla’s own plans to bring a succession of new electric cars to market in the next decade however, Musk welcomed the Chevrolet Bolt concept car unveiled by General Motors at the event, and any other long-range electric car that happens to make it to production in the next few years.
“I don’t see it as a competitive threat just because I think all cars will go electric,” he said of the Chevrolet Bolt concept EV to the packed out audience at the Automotive News World Congress. “There are one hundred million new cars and trucks made every year, so what does it matter if someone makes a few hundred thousand additional electric cars? It’s not going to affect us really.”
The Chevrolet Bolt, unveiled last monday, has been described by GM CEO Mary Barra as ‘one possible way’ General Motor’s long-promised 200-mile, $30,000 (after incentives) all-electric car could look. Designed to offer maximum visibility, the four-seat plug-in concept is heavily-laden with smartphone-savvy technology, has a full-length panoramic glass roof, and a super-high density under-floor battery pack which is claimed to drive more than 200 miles per charge.
While it has yet to be given go-ahead for production, the Chevrolet Bolt concept car will likely become the 2017 or 2018 all-electric, 200-mile production vehicle General Motors has been promising us for the past year. This would also put it in the marketplace the same time as the Tesla Model ≡ is due to launch.
Despite this, Musk isn’t bothered, and even quipped that he expected the Model ≡ to be cheaper than the Bolt at $35,000 before incentives.
Musk, who has recently confirmed he has no plans to leave Tesla, has said for many years that although he has a fiduciary duty to Tesla’s shareholders, helping the world dump oil for good is also pretty high on his priorities list. In fact, it was that drive to get people behind the wheel of an electric car — any electric car — which drove Musk and Tesla’s board to announce that the company would make all of its electric car patents available for other automaker to use on a quid-pro-quo open-source basis.
That sentiment seems to be holding true today, even as other automakers try to steal Tesla’s long-distance crown.
But while Musk offered praise to Nissan for the numbers of LEAF electric cars it has sold to date, a polite, unthreatened nod to the 200-mile Chevrolet Bolt Concept EV and a general welcome to any suitably-priced, competent electric car, he was equally willing to air his well-known views on hydrogen fuel cell cars.
“I just think they’re incredibly silly,” he said. “If you’re gonna pick an energy storage mechanism, hydrogen is an incredibly dumb one to pick. You should just pick methane. That’s much much easier. Or propane.”
As for hydrogen being a risk to Tesla? Musk is brutally honest.
“At best case, hydrogen fuel cell doesn’t win against the best batteries, so then obviously it doesn’t make sense,” he continued. “That will become apparent in the next few years, and there’s no reason for us to have this debate: I’ve said my piece on this and it will become super obvious as time goes by.”
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