Throughout history, humans have dreamed of what the future will be like. We have envisioned flying cars, teleportation devices, vacations to outer space, and much more. A lot of it is pretty farfetched, some of it is impossible, and yet other aspects aren’t as far away as you might think.
Elon Musk, Founder, and CEO of Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) (and other companies) has brought the science fiction fantasies much closer to reality than many people realize. His concepts and inventions could potentially revolutionize the way that we do life.
While most came to know Elon Musk as the CEO of Tesla, Musk is also the co-founder of PayPal Holding Inc. (PYPL). It all started back in 1999 as a financial services company simply named X.com. In 2000, it merged with Confinity and developed the online payment system we now know as PayPal (the name was officially registered in 2001). When eBay Inc. (EBAY) purchased PayPal in 2002, Musk was able to fund his other projects. He then quietly slipped into research mode for the next dozen years or so.
PayPal has already revolutionized the way we make payments. One can hop on and transfer money to one's brother that paid for dinner last night. One can purchase an item from a manufacturer in China. One can type in one's PayPal details at Home Depot and not even worry about bringing a credit card to the store. In short: PayPal has taken over the digital currency world and has already become so ingrained in our minds that we don’t even remember a world without it.
After selling off PayPal for $1.5 Billion to eBay.com Inc. (EBAY), Musk founded SpaceX. The company was seen as little more than a fantasy and something that most didn’t take seriously. After all, space flight was something that was left to government control.
Ten years after founding the company, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule was sent to the International Space Station. Since 2012, it has made two cargo runs. SpaceX has an exclusive contract with NASA to help deliver cargo to the floating lab.
But since its founding, SpaceX has never been about cargo runs. Musk’s original plan was to send people to space to colonize other planets. He wants to make sure that Mars is inhabitable in case the earth is no longer a viable option. Will it happen? Musk believes that within 20 years there will be a colony on Mars, and reusable rockets will be able to ferry people back and forth.
Tesla Motors Inc.
Most people have heard of the Tesla cars (TSLA). However, these all-electric vehicles aren’t just cars that run without gas. EV (electric vehicles) have been around for a few decades now, but none have really caught on. Primarily because they have had serious issues, like taking too long to charge, short range on a single charge, slow speed, and slow acceleration. Tesla Motors sought to change all of that (and they did with their Tesla S, which can go from 0 – 60mph in 4 seconds), but their goal was loftier.
The Tesla Model 3 is set for production in 2017. The price tag: $35,000. Musk’s goal when creating Tesla Motors was never to create an electric vehicle that only the rich could afford (the Model S starts at $70k; the Model X, an SUV, starts at $80k), but to have all-electric vehicles that anyone can afford. But since driving a vehicle that is powered from the grid (electricity generated by burning coal) only transfers the pollution somewhere else, there is a loftier goal. That is where Musk’s company SolarCity comes into play.
The Tesla Battery
The Tesla battery is a part of the clean energy company SolarCity. Founded in 2006, this company seeks to make renewable energy something that every home will not only be able to afford but will want to incorporate.
SolarCity designs and installs clean energy systems in residential and commercial settings. They have designed the Tesla Battery, a high-efficiency sleek looking battery, which can be enough to completely remove someone from the grid (given adequate solar panels, low consumption, and other factors). The big idea here is that by using SolarCity’s clean energy updates a household can become less dependent on electricity, power their electric vehicle, and ultimately reduce their footprint on the environment without spending an outrageous amount of money.
Southern California has long had a freeway problem. There are so many people living in the area that the roads become congested at nearly all hours of the day. The problem is exacerbated by inadequate public transit in the area. California has proposed a $70 billion high-speed light rail system to transport people from LA to San Francisco. Musk claims that his proposed Hyperloop will cost just $6 billion, and be able to make the trip in a mere 30 minutes.
The Hyperloop looks like something out of Futurama. Passengers would enter a 2-meter wide pod that would be zipped through a long tube. The entire thing would run on (presumably) renewable electric energy. The result would be a low impact form of transportation that could help alleviate the traffic burden across the country (when installed elsewhere).
The Bottom Line
How will Musk and his enterprises revolutionize the world? It has already happened. From PayPal taking over the digital currency world to SpaceX already making flights to Tesla building an affordable electric vehicle (with self-driving capabilities), Musk’s inventions and companies have already revolutionized many aspects of the way we live and think.
As the population continues to grow, we need lower impact forms of living. Regardless of whether a person believes climate change is caused by man or a natural phenomenon, the reality is that any time we can pollute less, and leave the world a cleaner place, and then everyone wins.