It is not uncommon for an Elon Musk-led firm to receive criticism. Almost all his companies have received a backlash from industry experts at some point or another. A lot of critics had condemned Tesla’s approach towards manufacturing electric vehicles. It was a similar case with SpaceX and its reusable orbital-class rockets. Now, Martin Herrenknecht, founder of Herrenknecht AG, has dismissed The Boring Co.’s way of thinking when it comes to tunneling. Herrenknecht AG is one of the world’s premier tunnel boring machine (TBM) makers.
The Boring Co. is primarily a tunnel-boring company. It constructs safe, fast-to-dig, and low-cost transportation, utility, and freight tunnels. One of their recent projects also includes the construction of a Loop transportation system. A slightly mild version of the Hyperloop, the Loop transportation system will consist of automated Tesla vehicles transporting passengers through underground tunnels at higher speeds than normal road commutes.
The company is currently working on various Loop transportation projects. This includes projects in Hawthorne (California), Las Vegas and Los Angeles. An upcoming system on the East Coast will most probably run from New York to Washington DC.
Who is Martin Herrenknecht?
Martin Herrenknecht is a German engineer and businessman. He founded Herrenknecht AG, a Germany-based construction equipment manufacturer. The company specializes in heavy-duty tunnel boring machines and the company has around 80 subsidiaries. They have worked on close to 2,600 projects.
When it comes to tunnel boring projects, Martin is a veteran. He has been in this business for almost 45 years now. Herrenknecht AG is currently the world leader in the tunnel boring field and they have also worked on construction projects for roads, railways, metros and utilities. They also offer tunnel-related services in the energy and mining sectors.
It is safe to say that Martin is an experienced businessman in the tunnel sector and his opinion is well-respected.
Martin’s Recent Comments on The Boring Co.
German business publication Manager Magazin recently interviewed Herrenknecht. During this interview, he was asked about his views on the Elon Musk-led tunneling firm. He seemed quite dismissive about Musk though, at least when it comes to The Boring Co.
Martin said that when it comes to the tunnel business, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO is an overrated person. He also mentioned that the TBMs used by his company are far more advanced than the ones The Boring Co. uses. He said that Musk is causing quite a stir with his comments of building cheaper tunnels quickly. However, his reference project in Vegas could drill 20 meters in a week, something that Herrenknecht AG can do in a day.
He also said that becoming competent in the tunneling industry will be very challenging for Elon Musk. He doesn’t see The Boring Co. reach similar heights as that of Tesla and SpaceX. This is because of the complexity and higher degree of difficulty in the tunneling segment.
Herrenknecht’s History with Elon Musk
Martin also shared an anecdote about Elon Musk. According to Martin, Musk had approached his company for buying a tunnel boring machine for The Boring Co. Some of Musk’s traits struck Martin as odd at the time. He apparently kept leaving the meeting room frequently and kept coming back with new ideas. He also asked Martin to reduce the price of the machine from $10 million to $2 million. Martin says “Something like that doesn’t work.”
In the end, Musk ended up buying boring machines from a different company. The first of these machines was used to dig the tunnel for the Hawthrone test project. Musk also mentioned that his company is working on developing an all-electric TBM called Prufrock, which has the potential to dig tunnels significantly faster than the industry’s best today.
The Boring Co.’s Vision and Recent Developments
The latest project of The Boring Co. in Las Vegas is apparently not far from its launch. This project consists of a Loop transportation system that runs from Fremont Street in Vegas all the way to McCarran Airport. The Loop can cover this route, a distance that normally takes 30 minutes to cover in peak hours, in just 3 minutes. This unique transportation system will be using Tesla Model 3 and Model Y cars with their autonomous features to reach speeds of 155 mph (250 kph) for this purpose. This underground tunnel runs below some of the most attractive places for tourists in Sin City, like the Bellagio, MGM, Luxor, Harrah’s, and Flamingo hotels.
Elon Musk had also talked about developing Loop-specific “denser Teslas” for increasing the seating capacity of this system. Currently, they are most probably considering Model 3 and Model Y for transportation, with the CyberTruck also set to become part of the fleet. Whether or not Musk introduces a “Tesla bus” in this fleet is unknown yet.
Elon Musk’s meeting with Martin Herrenknecht is quite similar to his meeting with the Russians in 2001. At that time, he was aiming to purchase intercontinental ballistic missiles for launching payloads into space. The deal broke down because of the missile’s cost, and the following year, Musk founded SpaceX. Last year, SpaceX became the first private spaceflight company to send a crewed spacecraft to space in association with NASA. Musk has also received a similar backlash regarding Tesla, back when it wasn’t the world’s most valuable automotive company.
Tesla and SpaceX have proven their critics wrong in the past. Herrenknecht’s comments about the tunneling business being much more complex may have some truth to it. But the world has witnessed Elon Musk-led firms overcome the biggest of obstacles in the past. Thus, it won’t be wrong to predict The Boring Co. do something similar. In the process, they will have to challenge the titans of the tunnel boring industry, including Herrenknecht AG. As of now, history seems to favour Elon Musk.