I attended today my first Tesla shareholder meeting. For somewhat bizarre reasons, I did not become a shareholder in Tesla till last year when I bought some shares. The amount is quite small (far less than 1% of my net worth) and has no bearing on the honesty of my blog.
Unlike traditional dull shareholder meetings in the past, this meeting was quite enjoyable. The business part was over quickly and included a warm thanks from Elon to the retiring CFO. Elon gave a short overview speech and answered about 10-15 questions from the audience.
After the official meeting, I went to charge my car at the new supercharger located in the parking lot. As I was chatting with a fellow shareholder I met at a supercharger in Oregon, I noticed the CTO JB Straubel talking to some owners. I took the opportunity to join in the conversation and ask some questions myself.
Model S / Autopilot
Elon mentioned that Teslas (not 100% sure if Roadsters are included) have been driven 1 billion miles as of today June 9, 2015, and that the new 70D is about 1/3 of Model S sales. Elon has been testing the autopilot features and will be released to Beta customers by or near the end of the month.
Elon did say the Model X is coming in 3 to 4 months and had a photo of it on the screen. I think the following quote is quite telling:
“The Model X may be a better SUV than the Model S is a sedan”.
Both Elon and JB expressed dissatisfaction with the current information available about the Tesla Energy products. Elon announced that the Powerwall now has a significant increase in power output making it a more usable solution for backup power in case of a power outage; a typical home can now run everything except air conditioning. Price with install for an existing solar customer will be $4,000. They are prioritizing deliveries to existing Tesla customers with solar.
I asked JB about the huge interest Tesla is seeing for the Powerwall as my return on investment with existing solar is 18 years. He said there are very specific markets: Germany, Australia, and South Africa where the economics make sense. He also mentioned the large interest in the Powerpack product for utilities. If they need to expand, they can add Powerpacks to existing substations. This advantage saves physical space and wires. JB mentioned keen interest among specific utilities.
The new Mountain View supercharger was opened up. I charged at my 86th supercharger today.
Tesla had representatives hanging around to talk to the customers. The only real difference now is that the charging cable is liquid cooled, flexible, thinner and lighter. The cable is the same width as the one we use at home. In California and warmer climates, the existing supercharger cables work fine, but in colder climates the existing cables can get very stiff.
These cables will support more voltage than today’s cables. So eventually we will be able to charge above 120V.
Elon clarified that superchargers are really for long distance trips. He acknowledged that there are some people using them for daily driving, and mentioned that a few are getting notes to that effect. An owner can technically and legally use only superchargers for daily driving.
Elon did say that eventually all superchargers would be powered from renewables. Where possible and appropriate they will have solar panels, or they will buy electricity from other renewable sources.
Tesla does not think there is much interest in battery swapping. The initial 200 people that were invited to the Beta of the station at Harris Ranch, only 4 or 5 swapped their batteries and only did it once. Tesla has now invited all the owners in California, and they are receiving about the same amount of interest as the initial group.
A shareholder asked Elon if SpaceX will ever go public as he wanted to own the trifecta of Elon’s companies (including Solar City). Elon said that wall street lives quarter to quarter and that model does not work with long times for launching rockets. He said that “Space X will go public once they have regular flights to Mars”.
The shareholder meeting was quite an enjoyable event. Listening to Elon and his clear vision of “sustainable transport” and a few interesting tidbits was well worth the short drive. The extra treat was to be able to ask a couple of questions directly to the CTO. Just being around two very intelligent people doing interesting and valuable things is inspiring.