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Elon Musk: Electric Aviation Definitely Happening, Tesla Is Currently At 360 Wh/kg, Could End Up Getting To The Magic Number

In an interview with Joe Rogan, Elon Musk discussed the future of technologies such as Starlink and Neuralink. These technologies will see the world take giant strides from a software perspective. But whenever we talk about software, there’s always a risk of cybersecurity and data privacy. Joe Rogan talked to Musk about these concerns, and that is covered in this final article.

The Progress of the Internet as a Technology, and Its Adverse Effects

While discussing a Star Trek movie, Joe Rogan talked about how sci-fi films in the 20th century had a different perspective of what the future held. Many of these films show interplanetary travel among other interesting pieces of technology. But almost none of them predicted the advent of the internet and how it would radically change the world in a very small time. Musk said that the phone that you use today is more powerful than the best supercomputer in the world in 1969. That says a huge deal about the progress of technology in recent times.

Data privacy, however, is a very important discussion today. Musk mentioned that the recent Facebook vs Apple battle on data privacy was a very interesting one. Joe appreciated Tim Cook’s stand against Facebook’s privacy policy. Facebook accused Apple of killing small businesses, but Joe feels that it is a very interesting statement coming from a company that makes billions of dollars by selling data.

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Musk moved on to the topic of artificial intelligence (AI), saying that Facebook is currently developing its own AI system. With so many companies coming up with their own AI systems, it is important to have a regulatory agency monitoring them. This will be similar to the FAA and FDA for monitoring aviation and food-related safety. Otherwise, Musk says it is a case of “the inmates are running the asylum”.

Tesla Seats and The Original Roadster Design

Talking about regulatory agencies, Musk said that it takes a lot of time to form such corporations. In fact, when seatbelts were being made compulsory for road safety regulations, many automobile companies fought this decision. However, due to the number of accidents taking place, they had to give in. But Musk says due to the advanced technology that goes into designing airbags these days, seat belts don’t matter as much.

He mentioned that a lot of thought goes into designing Tesla’s seats, and it has some of the most advanced functionalities that automobiles have seen. The seats in Tesla vehicles can actually measure the weight of the person sitting on them. Moreover, they can also measure the pressure distribution to understand what position you are in. This helps it to predict the extent to which you will need protection from a crash, hypothetically speaking. He says that Tesla vehicles have the highest safety ratings among production vehicles.

Joe then asked Musk his thoughts on whether the original Roadster was safe enough. Musk replied that it did fit into the regulations at the time, but could be made safer. He did bust the myth, however, that the Roadster was based on the design of the Lotus platform. He said it was true only in theory, but for production, they had to change several things, and the final version only contained around 7% of the parts of the Lotus design. Musk compares it to buying a house only to change every aspect of its interior except for the basement, maybe. It is just easier to tear it down and rebuild it, he says.

The Focus on Electric Mobility: How It Started and What The Future Holds

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Musk says that the electric vehicles actually were developed in the same time period that combustion vehicles were. However, because of the range problem, combustion vehicles took off, and electric cars fell behind the eight ball. The Tesla CEO feels that the General Motors EV-1 was a very good foundation for the company to build on. With a lot of financial support, they could have further developed the electric vehicle design, and who knows where the world would have been right now.

Right through the final phase of the interview, Musk keeps talking about why Tesla is in the race for developing electric cars.

Shifting to sustainable energy is inevitable. The goal of Tesla is to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy.

The decision of the world not moving to sustainable energy faster seems like the world’s worst experiment to Musk. We all know we have to get there eventually, but we’re waiting to see what really happens. It’s one of the flaws of humanity currently, according to him.

Electric Aviation from Elon Musk – Is It Happening or Not?

Joe also asked him about electric aviation, and Musk says it is definitely. Gas-powered aeroplanes have a constraint as to how high they can fly due to low traces of oxygen in the upper layers of the atmosphere. But electric planes can solve this problem and at higher altitudes where the air density is low, they can just cruise around, saving a lot of energy.

Getting these electric planes to those heights requires a lot of energy, though. The only way to solve this problem is by having more energy-dense battery packs, at least 400 Wh/kg. Tesla is currently at 360 Wh/kg, and they could end up getting to the magic number in order to enable electric aviation.

Musk, however, says that he hopes that someone else tries to do it because he has a lot of things on his mind currently. He did mention that the move to aviation is on his list, but it will take time.

Climate Change and Global Warming

When asked what he would do to further accelerate the shift to sustainable energy, Musk talked about a ‘carbon tax’. Basically, all the industries that are contributing to pollution and the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the world are liable to pay this tax. The amount of taxes will be proportional to the amount of emissions. This should discourage such industries from contributing to pollution.

Musk also says that he is not worried about the emissions that much because while global warming is causing climatic changes, it might relatively be easy to tackle that problem. However, the rate at which we are consuming fossil fuels versus its rate of production is worrisome. We, as a species, cannot live completely without oil, which is why we need to cut back wherever possible.

He also applauded the efforts that the Chinese government has taken to tackle environmental issues. He says China has some of the most progressive pro-environmental regulations for any large economy. They are promoting electric vehicles, as well as renewable sources such as solar and wind energy. However, he feels that the government should be a mere referee in the industrial domains, and not a player itself.

Our Opinion

Elon Musk has been called many things in the past. Of all those, “visionary” seems to be apt. And there is no need to even elaborate on that because these three articles prove that he thinks of everything from a broader perspective and is always looking at the big picture. And he is doing all of it thinking about how to improve the quality of life of all of humanity.

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Mihir Tasgaonkar
A mechanical engineer who loves reading and writing about new technologies in the automobile industry.

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