If all goes according to Elon Musk’s master plan, Tesla will soon be the proud owner of America’s biggest residential solar installer, SolarCity. The acquisition would complete Musk’s longtime vision of bringing together rooftop solar, batteries and electric cars into a unified product offering.
“That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history. Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together,” wrote Musk in his updated manifesto on Tesla’s product roadmap.
Musk has articulated why he thinks it’s a smart idea. The two companies are already partnering closely on pairing PV with storage, so why not just combine forces to make operations and design simpler?
It’s an attractive thought. But building that simpler business model creates additional complexities for Tesla, which is attempting to reinvent multiple industries all at once.
Like the Model S, Musk himself is going into “ludicrous mode” by taking on an extraordinary number of ambitious projects all at once: build a solar, auto, rocket and battery manufacturing powerhouse; transform the retail electricity industry; and link together cars and buses to create a Tesla-operated, self-driving global mobility fleet.
Oh yes, and populate Mars.
Musk’s reputation rests on his unwavering ambition. To skeptics, however, his growing list of tasks is starting to look less like one written by a visionary, and more like a list written by a college student on a double dose of Adderall. (Musk says it’s actually “large amounts of crack” that helps him.)
But if anyone can do it, Musk likely can. As GTM’s Eric Wesoff put it in our recent live conversation about Tesla’s plan to buy up SolarCity: “I don’t think it’s wise to bet against Elon Musk at this point. The guy has a vision. He’s not a nihilist. He’s not worried about three-month earnings. He’s thinking about grand schemes, 10-year plans and getting to Mars.”
Still, there are a lot of unanswered questions about execution. And we’ve done a lot of questioning in recent months on our podcast.
The Model 3: Can Tesla deliver hundreds of thousands of cars on time and on budget without problems?
Many are billing Tesla’s recent Model 3 launch as an iPhone moment. If the hype and preorders are any indication, the boutique electric-vehicle manufacturer has indeed taken another step toward transforming the auto industry.
But could the Model 3 also be a Blackberry moment? If sales don’t live up to expectations and Tesla faces any sort of quality-control issue, it could take a big hit.
In our show from April, we talked about the importance of the Model 3 with Dana Hull, a Bloomberg business reporter covering Tesla and SpaceX.
The SolarCity acquisition: Is this really the right time for Musk to buy a solar company?
As Tesla moves forward with its plan to acquire SolarCity, financial analysts are still trying to understand the consequences of the deal. In our live show recorded the day after Elon announced the acquisition plan, we debated whether it was a distraction. We also talked about what a rooftop solar business would look like under Tesla’s control.
The master plan: Will Musk’s long-term vision actually be profitable?
Musk’s first master plan, published in 2006, described the company and trajectory we know today: build an expensive electric car, improve manufacturing, build a less expensive car, grow manufacturing, and finally build a mass-market EV.
Part two is much more ambitious. It includes building a seamless solar-plus-storage offering, dominating grid-scale storage, revolutionizing buses and tractor-trailers, and making shared fleets of autonomous vehicles available to all.
In our most recent conversation, we debated whether Tesla can actually execute on the new manifesto.
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This article was originally featured on greentechmedia.com.