Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla and founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies, speaks...

Musk Reads

Tesla solar panels: Musk announces huge expansion despite $2 billion lawsuit

Tesla Energy keeps growing, even as its CEO heads to court.

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/Hearst Newspapers/Getty Images

Elon Musk defends SolarCity; the Boring Company digs Florida; and Musk plans another rocket factory. It’s the free edition of Musk Reads #255 subscribe now to receive two more editions later this week!

Last week, Musk Reads+ subscribers heard from space archaeologist Alice Gorman on how Starlink marks a new era for humanity’s exploration. This week, readers will hear from Margaret Weitekamp, curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, about why Blue Origin’s flight with Wally Funk this week will break records.

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

Musk quote of the week

“Congratulations, beautiful flight!” — Elon Musk tweeted at Richard Branson after his successful trip to the edge of space on July 11. Apparently, a tweet wasn’t enough. Musk reportedly paid Branson a 3 a.m. visit to wish the fellow billionaire well and purchased his own ticket to a Virgin Galactic touristy space flight.

Richard Branson and Elon Musk standing in Branson’s kitchen ahead of his July 11 space flight.

SolarCity gets its day in court

Today, July 12, Elon Musk defended Tesla’s 2016 $2.6 billion purchase of SolarCity (now Tesla Energy), the once-leading solar installation company that Tesla has since integrated into its brand, in front of a lone judge in Delaware. Tesla shareholders allege the purchase disproportionately benefited Musk, who held 22% of the financially unstable company’s shares, and his cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, who were SolarCity’s founders. According to a Reuters report, Musk asserted no unfair gain from the purchase and subsequent bailout, saying that since he “owned almost exactly the same percentage of both [Tesla and SolarCity], there was no financial gain.”

The lawsuit originally named some Tesla board members in addition to Musk, including his brother Kimbal Musk, but in August 2020, those board members filed a $60 million settlement and claimed no wrongdoing. Musk is now the suit’s only defendant, and the trial, which is scheduled to run through July 23, could result in Musk paying SolarCity’s over $2 billion purchase price back to Tesla. This is pocket change when considering the CEO’s $162 billion net worth.

But the trial won’t stop Musk’s momentum with Tesla Energy. On July 9, he announced a “major new housing development” in Austin, Texas, with the working title “SunHouse at Easton Park”. A press release describes it as “the first Tesla Solar neighborhood and the nation’s most sustainable residential community.”

SunHouse homes will be equipped with Tesla V3 solar roof tiles, Powerwall 2 battery storage, and in-home electric car chargers in an attempt to demonstrate that all-electric communities are possible and perhaps even preferable. Anyone interested in the project can sign up for updates on the Easton Park community website.

The Boring Company: Beach tunnels? In Florida? It’s more likely than you think

Although The Boring Company’s last project, the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop, isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be (not that it’s bad either; users have certainly enjoyed the quickened travel time across the large Center), the company is already gearing up for their next one: a $30 million tunnel under Fort Lauderdale.

Although the Fort Lauderdale tunnel, which will be called “Las Olas Loop,” was only approved July 6, Mayor Dean Trantalis and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have been interested in bringing the Boring Company to South Florida since at least January 2021.

Elon Musk promotes The Boring Company tunnels in a tweet to Miami mayor Francis Suarez January 18, 2021.

According to Mayor Trantalis, the loop will connect Fort Lauderdale’s downtown and beach area in an “innovative way to reduce traffic congestion.” Other companies have 45 days to submit competing proposals before construction plans are solidified. Or, you know, investing in public transit is cool, too.

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In other Musk news…

T-minus the internet

A ranked list of everything Musk-related and online, handpicked weekly with bionic precision.

10. Musician and Elon Musk’s partner, Grimes, announced her new album (coming “4200 A.D.”) will be a space opera about A.I. navigating love and the male gaze. Sony Music has created a waitlist for the album that very simply asks for your name, number, and “Are you a player of games?” For you, Grimes, I am.

9. On July 9, a TikTok user went viral with her video of Jeff Bezos’ $500 million “superyacht floating serenely on blue Capri waters. The video currently has 1.3 million views, not nearly enough to buy her own superyacht. Watch now.

8. Look out A.I. conspiracy theorists — this 11-year-old college graduate wants to become an immortal robo-human. Why don’t you stick to Legos, kid.

7. At least before he gets there, we’ll reap all the benefits of pizza robotics. Read more.

6. Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta V9 was made available to beta testers last week, and YouTube has been flooded with first-person videos and honest reviews of the software (which, by the way, is not actually fully autonomous). (But it could be a start.)

5. Meanwhile, hacker @greentheonly was able to take videos of Tesla’s older depth perception neural network in action. Watch now.

4. Could the future of Mars be female? Read more.

3. Space travel’s past certainly hasn’t been female-oriented. But as more women astronauts, scientists, and engineers bring attention to space travel’s historic lack of diversity, it looks like this may change. At least they hope so.

2. Musk proposed the Mars-bound Starship could act like an intergalactic garbage truck for all the junk floating around up there, but have you ever been able to really visualize just how much junk that is? The space debris visualizer Stuff in Space wants to give you an idea. Take out the trash.

1. And a piece of Musk history: As Elon Musk sits at the mouth of yet another legal battle, let’s revisit a slightly more fun one. Nearly 10 years ago, in October 2013, Musk tried to sue BBC show Top Gear for misrepresenting the first-generation Roadster. Although the suit was dismissed by a British judge, Musk still spoke to then-BBC reporter Gavin Esler about Jeremy Clarkson’s hatred of “American cars and electric cars.” Sorry, buddy.

The ultra-fine print — This has been Musk Reads #255, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Ashley Bardhan, assistant to Musk Reads. I’ll be taking over the Monday newsletter for the summer.

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