Tesla CEO Elon Musk believes entrepreneurs are missing out on opportunities in manufacturing and heavy industry. Mark Thompson—Getty Images
Tesla CEO Elon Musk isn’t opposed to entrepreneurs building apps for smartphones, but he wants more entrepreneurs to focus on heavy industry, and he’s there. says the opportunity is “huge.”
Tesla’s CEO made the comments during a conversation with Ford CEO Jim Farley on his Twitter space. event Thursday evening. The two companies announced that Tesla’s Supercharger Station will be available to owners of Ford’s electric vehicles (to the dismay of Tesla customers who have already put up with the long wait).
At one point in our conversation, Farley asked Musk about his experience processing raw materials near Corpus Christi, Texas, where Tesla broke ground on a lithium smelter earlier this month.
The facility packages and ships lithium hydroxide, a core component in electric vehicle batteries, which is in short supply domestically. Musk said Thursday that lithium is abundant in the world, but that Tesla has identified “significant challenges” in processing it. It’s something Tesla doesn’t want to do, but it has to do, he added.
“Our real goal is to do the least possible, but then we end up reaching, or expected to reach, these hard points. will be done,” he said. “So a lot of vertical integration is really a necessity.”
Musk said Tesla would be happy to use suppliers instead if it could “solve the problem” and continue to clearly meet automakers’ production needs, directing resources elsewhere. said it can.
Tesla is also building a facility at its giant Texas factory to produce another key part of EV batteries: cathodes.
Musk said he hopes more entrepreneurs will join heavy industry.
“In Silicon Valley, we see so many entrepreneurs working on software startups and chasing the latest cool stuff. Told. “And the crazy thing is that the opportunities in heavy industry are huge.
He added, “We need an app on the phone, but you know, I think we over-allocate resources to the app on the phone.”
Venture capitalist Paul Graham, co-founder of startup accelerator Y Combinator, commented last month on the “software company advantage.” Tweet“It’s hard to build something physical. But if that’s what you’re into, never mind.”
Musk answered“Manufacturing and heavy industry are in short supply.”
One of the entrepreneurs focused on manufacturing in the electric vehicle sector turned out to be an early employee of Tesla. It was Gene Berdichevsky, CEO of Sila Nanotechnologies. His company, which he founded in 2011, manufactures anode materials to replace graphite, another mineral bottleneck for EV batteries. The United States imports all of its graphite, with nearly a third coming from China, according to Wards Intelligence.
“We strongly believed that all ground transportation would be electrified, but we believed that the major limiting factor was the chemistry and performance of lithium-ion batteries,” Berdichevsky said. washington post March.
A year ago, Mercedes-Benz announced that it would incorporate Sila’s silicon anode chemistry into the batteries of its upcoming G-Class electric vehicles.
Musk told Farley on Thursday that Tesla was wondering, “Do we need to do anodes as well?” I hope not. It would be great if someone else did it. There is a large market for synthetic graphite. ” He urged entrepreneurs to consider the supply.