Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and CEO of Tesla Inc., comes to the Axel Springer Awards ceremony in Berlin on December 1, 2020.
Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, said Wednesday that his electric vehicle and solar business could help bitcoin miners move to renewable energy, but is currently limited by the scarcity of battery cells.
He also acknowledged that Tesla is still not making its custom 4680 cells for commercial use in electric cars or energy storage systems.
The comments came during an appearance at the B Word Conference, which focused on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. During a panel, Steve Lee, Head of Square Crypto, asked Musk what the energy-intensive Bitcoin industry can do “to accelerate the transition to renewables” and “could Tesla Energy play a role?”
Musk replied, “Well, I think Tesla can play a role.”
Then the 50-year-old CEO broke into a pensive moment that hinted that Tesla’s only reason to exist was to convert the world to clean energy.
“I’d say I’ve had some pretty tough life experiences and Tesla is probably responsible for two-thirds of all personal and professional pain to give you perspective.”
Tesla’s energy business
Tesla has been selling commercial and residential solar systems for around $ 2.6 billion since acquiring SolarCity in 2016, a deal that Musk landed in a Delaware court this month.
But before Tesla got into the solar business, Tesla developed and began selling energy storage products in 2015, including a home backup battery called the Powerwall and larger batteries that can store intermittent solar or wind energy so that it is always available when utilities need.
Tesla has installed a number of these utility-scale energy storage systems, Musk reminded his audience on Wednesday, who have helped utility companies “load balance the grid,” including in South Australia and elsewhere. However, he noted that battery production is currently limiting production.
“In fact, the limiting factor for us at the moment is cell production. We have to have our internal Tesla battery cells produced internally as well as increasing the range of suppliers.”
Musk also reiterated that even if Tesla can make its own battery cells, it will still rely on other battery cell manufacturers. Current cell suppliers include Panasonic, LG and CATL.
“In general, when I talk to our suppliers and they say, ‘How many cells do you want?’ I say ‘how many cells can you make?’ You know, because they worry sometimes, will Tesla compete with them on cells? I’m like no no if you want to make the cells our guests. We just need an insane number of batteries. “
In a Twitter exchange with fans after the Bitcoin conference, Musk wrote that Tesla was still “not quite ready” to “mass-produce” its specially developed 4680 battery cells.
He also admitted that Tesla had sold Maxwell Technologies’ ultracapacitor business and other assets to a San Diego-based startup called UCap Power, led by Gordon Schenk, previously Tesla’s VP of Sales for its Maxwell division.
Tesla initially acquired Maxwell in 2019 in a deal worth over $ 200 million. The exact terms of the sale to UCap Power Inc. have not been disclosed, but may be discussed when Tesla holds its second quarter conference call on Monday, July 26th.
Finally, Musk said at the B-Word conference that energy storage systems combined with sun and wind aren’t the only ways to convert Bitcoin to clean energy. He advocated the existing hydropower, geothermal and nuclear power to reduce the environmental impact of bitcoin mining.
“My expectation is not that the energy production has to be as pure as the driven snow, but it also can’t be the dirtiest coal in the world that existed for a moment. So, you know, this is difficult for Tesla to support . ” I do think that in the long term renewable energies will actually be the cheapest form of energy, it just doesn’t work overnight. “