He has gone into space. He has taken on the roads. He has even gone underground. Will Elon Musk’s next frontier be the skies?
It’s hard to bet against a man who has already redefined so many industries. In fact, he has been such a force of the 21st that he was the muse for Robert Downey Jr’s version of Iron Man. It’s even harder to bet against a man whose companies are leaders in manufacturing, battery technology, engineering, and navigating tricky legislation. Here’s three reasons why Elon Musk’s next big invention should be an electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVTOL) aircraft.
He hates traffic
Elon has tweeted countless times about his disdain for traffic, and who can blame him? No one likes sitting in their car going 0 mph. Especially when your car is a Tesla and can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.4 second. His tunnel digging company, The Boring Company, is looking to build tunnel’s under LA’s infamous traffic and his Hyperloop project is pushing the boundaries of rapid transit. Well, what has a higher top speed than any Tesla and can also go in a straight line in any direction? A plane.
Knowing’s Musk’s disdain for waiting, it’s likely that he won’t just be planning to build another airplane to be used at an airport. No, that would require you to wait in long TSA lines either way and travel to the airport in that dreaded traffic. If Elon truly hates traffic as much as I think he does, he’s going to make an EVTOL aircraft that can land in your backyard and take you to wherever you want to go. He even has a pretty good name for the autonomous software he’ll use to direct his aircraft – Autopilot.
He’s all about sustainability
According to the ICCT, globally, aircraft contribute to nearly 2.4% of global emissions. 2.4% may seem small but considering how quickly the global aviation industry is expanding, it still represents a massive amount of emissions. Those same emissions from fossil fuels has been a big focus of Musk’s Tesla. Musk is a huge proponent of sustainability and has made it a fundamental part of both of Tesla’s master plans. From Master Plan Deux:
“The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That’s what “sustainable” means. It’s not some silly, hippy thing — it matters for everyone.” – Tesla, Master Plan Deux
Beyond just it’s electric cars, Tesla has stay committed to its sustainability plan, introducing its home battery pack, the Powerwall, and its solar cell rooftop, the Solarglass Roof. While investors have given these innovations mixed reviews, they show a clear commitment to Tesla’s mission to sustainability. Given that commitment, it would be no surprise to see Musk want to take on aviation sustainability.
His company Tesla makes the world’s most advanced batteries
Musk himself has stated in a tweet that it’s possible for a plane to fly off batteries. In response to a question from Ninja about whether electric flight was possible Musk responded:
“Yes, but still a bit too limited on range. That will change in coming years as battery energy density improves.” – @elonmusk
If, according to Musk, the biggest impediment is energy density, it’s hard to argue that Tesla isn’t well positioned to win the electric plane war. Tesla’s batteries have a volumetric energy density of 247 WH/kg, compared to the Nissan Leaf’s of 224 WH/kg, more than 10% better. But Tesla isn’t stopping there. It’s recent acquisition of Maxwell shows Tesla’s desire to get to higher energy densities. Power is used by aircraft to generate thrust and lift, and the latter is used to offset the aircraft’s weight giving us flight. Thus, the higher the energy density, the more efficient the aircraft.
So is Elon Musk thinking about the future of the skies? What do you think?