Musk Reads: Elon Musk’s Electric Plane Idea Gets Liftoff

Plus, SpaceX fires the Raptor engine and a new city considers The Boring Company.

Tesla’s next acquisition could help make electric planes fly; SpaceX fires its Raptor engine; and Musk makes a big self-driving prediction. It’s Musk Reads #64.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

Musk Quote of the Week

“The fundamental goodness of Tesla, the ‘why’ of Tesla, the relevance, comes down to two things: The acceleration of sustainable energy, and autonomy.”

(Read more about Musk’s ideas for the future here.)

Full Self Driving Tesla

Tesla

Tesla delivered its fourth-quarter earnings report, its second consecutive profitable results. Musk dropped tidbits about a possible release date for the pickup truck, a plan to start mass production for the Model Y compact SUV, and a jump in autonomous capabilities. Read more.

The company also announced plans to purchase Maxwell Technologies for $218 million. The battery tech firm has developed a dry electrode technology that could bring density up to 500 watt-hours per kilogram. Musk, who has spoken about his plans for an electric plane before, cited the density rating as a key landmark in developing such a vehicle. Read more.

What’s next for Tesla: Tesla is expected to start shipping the Model 3 internationally this month after registering 1,078 identification numbers for European versions of the car. The vehicles have been spotted in Belgium.

More Tesla reads from this week:

  • Tesla Model 3 Price Has Finally Dropped to a Key Low Figure. Read more.
  • Volkswagen’s Electrify America to Install Hundreds of New Tesla Powerpacks. Read more.
  • Tesla Model 3 Owners Report Key Issue for the Winter Months. Read more.
  • 2018 May Have Been Tesla’s Toughest Year So Far, but 2019’s No Cakewalk. Read more.
  • Why Self-Driving Cars Could Actually Make Traffic Nightmarish: Analysis. Read more.
  • Tesla Starts Testing the Solar Roof in Tough Weather Amid Design Tweaks. Read more.
Raptor firing

SpaceX

SpaceX has fired its Raptor engine for the first time. The video, which has a noticeable green tinge, comes amid more testing at the company’s Boca Chica facility in Texas. The team has also tested the regenerative heat shield by blasting it with temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1,100 degrees Celsius). The eventual rocket is designed to send humans to Mars and transform humanity into a planet-hopping species thanks to the use of liquid oxygen and methane propellant. Read more.

What’s Next for SpaceX: The firm is expected to start “hop tests” with the test version of its Starship in the coming weeks. Musk claims the new design has enabled a faster launch schedule, with an orbital Starship set for unveiling as early as June.

Musk standing next to his "wormhole" tunnel.

The Boring Company

The Boring Company could come to San Jose. Mayor Sam Liccardo said this week that he’s held talks with Musk about bringing his technology to link up Mineta San Jose International Airport to Diridon Station around three miles away. It joins a growing list of informal conversations around The Boring Company’s technology, including building a particle collider and digging through an Australian mountain. Liccardo claimed a rail link would cost $800 million, while Musk claims the 1.14-mile Hawthorne tunnel cost just $10 million. Read more.

Musk in Pop Culture

Musk may be ready to appear on Meme Review soon, the YouTube show hosted by PewDiePie. He told fans via his Twitter page that he would appear in the “next few days,” after announcing he’d also bought the website stankmemes.com. Musk has been upping his meme posts in recent weeks, sharing images of a wolf eating watermelon and an Ikea summoning dark forces.

More Musk reads from this week:

  • Will ‘The Mandalorian’ Have an Elon Musk Cameo? This Photo Makes You Wonder. Read more.
  • A New Video Shows SpaceX Barely Miss Hitting Its ‘Mr. Steven’ Target. See the video.

Photo of the Week

Bill Nye, legendary science guy, paid a visit to Tesla’s Fremont facility this week.

The Ultra-Fine Print

This has been Musk Reads #64, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

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A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

Maxwell Technologies is Tesla's Latest Battery Acquisition