Joe Rogan's interview with Elon Musk on February 10, 2021. Discuss Space X, Roadster 2.0 and Model S Plaid+

By Barry Shell

Elon Musk

The other day (Feb 10, 2021) Joe Rogan interviewed Elon Musk for 3 hours on his Spotify podcast (You can listen to a replay of the podcast below). They were in Texas and not California so no pot was smoked this time. The discussion began with the topic of UFOs and Alien Life, which Musk easily dismissed by observing that over the centuries tens of thousands of archaeologist have not once found a shred of evidence for alien life - e.g. a titanium cube in a pyramid - so "they must be very shy," he said, or else there is no such thing.

Over glasses of bourbon on the rocks Rogan and Musk talked about the new Roadster, which would be shipping some time in 2022. Rogan asked him how the rocket propulsion would work, and would the car be able to hover. Musk said for sure he wanted it to hover, but not more than a metre (3 - 6 feet) above the ground. "I don't want to kill anybody," he said, adding that it might wreck the suspension if it dropped from that height, but people would survive. He explained how the car would come stock with two kiddie seats in the back, but if you ordered the "SpaceX option package" that part of the car would instead contain a carbon fibre reinforced ultra high pressure tank at 10,000psi. "The license plate would flip down James Bond style and a rocket thruster would come out that gives you three tons of thrust. This thing would move like a bat out of hell," said Musk.

As for the Model S Plaid, he said they just tested it and got acceleration of 0 - 60 in 1.96 seconds. He said as delivered the new Model S Plaid would beat 7 seconds on the Nürburgring track, which is unheard of for stock cars. In practical terms Musk said that off the line from a green light, "The car will hit 60 mph before it crosses the intersection. It's insane. It's uncomfortably fast."

On the question of how people will drive the new Model S without a stalk for shifting gears Musk said that when you press the brake and then the accelerator the car would simply figure out whether you want to go backward or forward. "It looks and sees if there's an obstacle in front, in which case it would choose reverse," said Musk. If the situation is ambiguous it defaults to the inverse of whatever you started with, says Musk. This would happen when parallel parking for instance. Besides he says if you just swipe up or down on the screen it changes direction. "You'll see. Once you get rid of the stalk and have the car figure it out, it's annoying to have a stalk."

Musk then gave a quick tip: "If you just swipe down on the navigate button in any Tesla it figures out if you want to go Home or to Work and just navigates there." If it's morning time it assumes work. His basic philosophy is that the car should always know what to do. He says, "All input is error. If you have to do something, it's an error." That is: the car should always naturally know to do the right thing. If you have to intervene, then the car did something wrong.

He then told Rogan that his favourite game in the car is Polytopia, a strategy game. "That's my top recommendation for any game in the car." He said in the future, as cars become more autonomous, trips are really going to be more about entertainment. "Entertainment first, and then productivity," says Musk.

He then talked about how much he liked Austin, Texas where they are building the factory for the Cybertruck. "This is where the Tesla team wanted the factory to be. It's a mini California in Austin," says Musk. "I think Austin is going to be the biggest boom town that America has seen in half a century." The Tesla factory is only 2 miles from the airport. "We have a lot of land: 2500 acres right next to the airport."

He said they had to redesign the Cybertruck to be two or three inches smaller so it would fit into the tunnels made by his Boring Company. He predicted that volume truck production would happen in 2022 and it would have a range of something around 300 miles (~500 km). Talk then turned to aerodynamic drag for the cybertruck. Turns out the sharp angles of the truck are very bad for aerodynamics. "Air likes rounded surfaces," says Musk. But he added that having the angled cover at the rear over the truck bed makes a huge difference, and is unlike any other pickup truck where the flat bed and tailgate act like dragging a parachute behind the vehicle.

Musk then started talking about tires. He said that an airless tire was probably coming but it was a very difficult problem, all things considered.

Next they talked about vans. He said with a flat roof, and a big awning that spread out to the side they might be able to put solar panels on top, and get enough energy to provide 30 miles a day of range from the sun for free. "Capturing solar energy is all about area," says Musk. You need an area the size of a house roof to be practical for charging an electric vehicle.

Later in the program Musk got on the subject of automobile safety including seat belts and airbags. At one point Musk said, "Modern air bags are so good they will blow your mind," even suggesting that seat belts might not even be necessary. "At Tesla we have even updated the software to improve how the airbags deploy." Based on an array of sensors in the seats, he said, "We calculate if you are an adult then how much do you weigh. Are you on this part of the seat or that part. Are you a baby? Are you a toddler? We work out if it's a male or a female to a percentile probability." Tesla airbags fire differently depending on your weight, your position on the seat, and even what your gender orientation is. Musk added that airbag deployment software improvements is always included with regular over the air updates so it's always getting better. "The sophistication of airbags is crazy good," he says.

Next they talked about lithium batteries used in cars. When Rogan asked if lithium was a rare element Musk assured him that it was everywhere, one of the most common elements in the universe. He pointed out that the term 'lithium battery' is actually a misnomer because the batteries are composed mostly of either nickel or iron. Using a food analogy Musk said, "Lithium is like salt. Do you like salt on your salad? Sure. But it's not made of salt." According to Musk nickel-based batteries are more energy dense but iron-based batteries are cheaper to produce. He said Tesla's batteries contain a nickel cathode, a carbon/silicon anode and the lithium ions just trundle back and forth between the two.

Rogan and Musk continued to sip their whiskey as they moved on to the topic of climate change and what can be done. Musk's position is that since the oil supply is finite, at some point we MUST switch to more renewable sources of energy, so why not do it sooner rather than later. He did not come down hard on the oil and gas industry. Instead he promoted a carbon tax which both he and Rogan agreed was a no brainer. Musk says he has already spoken to President Biden urging him to introduce a carbon tax in the US, but Biden was not prepared to do that as it would be politically dangerous. According to Musk a carbon tax is key to solving the climate crisis because it internalizes the economic cost of burning fossil fuels for energy. He talked about his creation of an X-Prize for a viable carbon capture technology, saying that a HUGE amount of energy is always required to capture carbon. "How much wind or solar energy is required to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and make a cube of it or something, a giant cube?" he asks. "We don't actually know the answer to this question and that's why I'm giving a hundred million dollars to get a better answer."

The conversation then turned to the Model X which Musk described as the Fabergé Egg of cars and an insane exercise in hubris. "We really got carried away with that car," says Musk. He seemed somewhat embarrassed. They talked about its amazing HEPA filter system, it's crazy doors, and it's incredible stability in safety tests. He pointed to a few specifics. For instance that the gull-wing doors have specially developed ultrasonic motion sensors that are hidden so they didn't have to put the typical little round plastic pucks on the outside of the door. Also the way the seats are mounted on a rear inclined single post with all the mechanism hidden beneath the floor, "so if you open the door and look through, it's just completely clean," says Musk. "The floor is like a knife edge. There's nothing else like it." The windscreen of the Model X is like in a helicopter he says. "There's no place to attach the sun visor. So we had to create sun visors that nest in the A pillar, rotate forward with a magnetic attachment that pops out and attaches to the rear view mirror." The sound system in the Model X is designed taking into account that the windscreen acts like a giant subwoofer resonator. "The sound system is epic in the X," says Musk. "It's good in the S too. It's even better in the new S." Rogan then asked if there's going to be a plaid X and Musk said sure and bizarrely fast for an SUV, with a range of about 350 miles (560 km). You can order one now on Tesla.com for about $113,000.

The next topic of conversation was the Tesla Semi truck. Musk said that Tesla semis are already being used to move cars. "We drive them back and forth from Fremont to Reno transporting stuff." He quoted a range of about 300 miles, which he said was enough for most trips driven by trucks. You want a 500kWh battery pack in a semi said Musk, reminding Rogan that the Model S comes with a 100kWh pack. This would be accomplished by incorporating the battery packs as structural elements of the truck frame. "This definitely works one hundred percent, there's no question about it," said Musk. He also said that Tesla semi trucks will be inherently safer with a super low centre of gravity and also "with individual motors controlling the wheels the computer will automatically prevent it from jackknifing, a truck driver's worst nightmare."

The interview ended with Rogan asking Musk if he was planning to branch out into airplane design and production. Musk responded by saying his brain would explode if he did because he has so much on his plate already. He said no car company has ever expanded into "air cars." But he then spent a few minutes discussing the physics of flight, concluding that the main goal should be to get as high as possible as fast as possible, because once you are at 100,000 feet (30.5km), air density is 1% of that on the surface, which means you can go very fast using very little energy. He said the problem with combustion engines was that they needed air to burn fuel, and with the air density at altitude being 100 times less than on the surface it's very difficult to design a combustion engine that can operate over such a huge range. "It's an intractable problem," said Musk, "But if you have an electric plane it's not burning anything so it doesn't matter." Musk said that Tesla would likely do trucks and boats before they work on airplanes, "But ultimately there will be an electric vertical take off and landing supersonic jet." He said a lot of other smart people are working on it, so it will probably happen.

Tesla Officially Launches the New Model 3 Performance, Deliveries Start Next Month

By Cláudio Afonso

Today, a few hours before releasing their first quarter financial results, Tesla launched the highly anticipated Model 3 Performance. The new version starts at $45,490 (after applying the $7,500 Federal EV tax credit) and deliveries are scheduled to start in May.

With 510 horsepower and a top speed of 163 mph, the new Performance variant brings an improved sound system, a re-designed interior featuring more comfortable rear seats with some features coming directly from the recently revamped Model 3. Tesla also says that the new Performance model has “significantly less” road and wind noise thanks to the rear spoiler and changes to the front bumper.

“The front and rear fascias, rear diffuser and carbon fiber spoiler work together to help reduce drag and improve lift balance at high speeds”

Tesla’s most powerful Model 3 ever is now cheaper than the Model 3 Long Range after the federal tax credit. The Model 3 Performance model is the only Model 3 variant that is eligible for the government incentive.

Performance

The new Performance model comes with 20
The new Performance model comes with 20

While the new Performance model is largely based on the recently revamped Model 3, while including design changes to the front and rear diffuser, as well as the addition of a rear spoiler. In terms of performance, the model announced today offers a 22% increase in continuous power, a 32% increase in peak power, and an additional 16% of peak torque. The Performance model now has 500 hp and includes a “performance” motor that’s unique to the Performance model.

The new Model 3 Performance is capable of going 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than the previous incarnation. It didn’t take long for Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk to comment on X stating that the Model 3 Performance is “quicker than a Porsche 911.”

Specs of the new Tesla Model 3 Performance
Specs of the new Tesla Model 3 Performance

Track Mode V3

The new Model 3 Performance is equipped with an updated Track Mode, v3, that features an all-new calibration for the powertrain and adaptive suspension.

Tesla's Track Mode V3
Tesla's Track Mode V3

Range

The Model 3 Performance has an EPA range of 296 miles (476km) on a single charge, an increase of 10 miles (16km) when compared to the previous version while being slightly lower than the Long Range variant.

Rear Display

As seen in the revamped version of the Model 3, Tesla is also bringing the rear 8” touchscreen with climate controls, Bluetooth connectivity and entertainment for the rear passengers. With Tesla update 2024.14, Tesla is improving the rear screen by adding trip information, time and temperature information to the top of the display.

Exterior view of the new Tesla Model 3 Performance
Exterior view of the new Tesla Model 3 Performance

All-new Adaptive Suspension

According to Tesla, the new adaptive dampening system adjusts to driver and road input in real-time. While the new Model 3 already included suspension improvements over the previous generation, the Performance model takes it one step further.

New Seats

The new model includes the new Sport Seats that we’ve seen in spy shots before. Although the new model is officially named “Performance,” the sport seats feature the Ludicrous badge. The seats include improved side and cushion bolsters to help keep you in an ideal driving position

The new Sport seats feature the Ludicrous badge
The new Sport seats feature the Ludicrous badge

Deliveries

The model just went up for sale a few hours ago, but orders placed minutes after the launch show an estimated delivery of May/June 2024 in the United States. In Canada, where the Model 3 Performance starts at CA $69,990, the estimated delivery is currently slated for June/July.

Tesla Cuts Newly Formed Content and Ads Team, Musk says Ads Were “Too Generic”

By Cláudio Afonso

Tesla eliminated a newly formed marketing team of about 40 employees as part of its global layoffs, Bloomberg reported on Monday morning. On X, Elon Musk said the ads created by the team were “far too generic” adding that they would apply to “any car”.

The team was led by Alexander Ingram who joined Tesla in August 2019 as Communication lead for Automotive. After a few different roles connected with content and social media, Ingram was promoted last December to Senior Manager of Global Growth Content. In the new role, he was leading a global team of creatives focused on Tesla's first ads, as well as social media.

Ingram put out some excellent behind-the-scenes videos on Tesla’s technological advancements such as the one below explaining Tesla’s single casting.

Tesla’s Advertisement Strategy

At Tesla’s 2023 annual meeting of shareholders, Elon Musk said that the company would “try a little advertising and see how it goes”. Since then, Tesla ads have been seen in Google search results and on YouTube.

In Tesla’s proxy statement filed last week, it is seen that the automaker has spent around $200,000 on X-advertising through February 2024.

“As part of a multi-platform advertising campaign, Tesla also directly or indirectly purchased advertising on X, which totaled approximately $0.2 million through February 2024”

Bloomberg’s source added that Tesla still has a smaller marketing team in Europe.

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