Title: Insane Mode (How Elon Musk’s Tesla sparked an Electric Revolution to End the Age of Oil)
Author: Hamish Mckenzie
My interest in Elon Musk was spiked when we watched the space craft launch this year on the 30th of May (2020). I felt a strong sense of inspiration and awe, since the feat he achieved, not only on that day but for everything else, is truly inspiring.
I felt so excited that I wanted to join the team by buying myself something with the SpaceX logo on it lol, the closest I’d be to SpaceX since they are only permitted to hire American citizens due to security clearance purposes).
I eventually didn’t go ahead with the buys because none of the goods that were on offer on Amazon felt truly as amazing buys. Therefore, I decided I’d go the other way, and get a good book on a part of his life story. I say part, because he still has a long way that he will go.
That’s when I came across this book in the bookshelves of the store, next to many other great biographies of different well-known people. Even though this book was not about SpaceX specifically, it still represents one of the companies that are very dear to his heart. TESLA.
At least by now I believe that many more people have heard the name of the infamous start-up electric motor vehicle company. The one that has prevailed the longest in competition with the gasoline industry. The book is a biography of Elon and Tesla, about how it started and the obstacles they came to face along the way. Struggles including financial (quite a few actually), legal, mechanical, political, and a few more. As you progress through the various chapters you catch a slight glimpse of the struggle that they had to face at different stages, which are not insignificant struggles, but existential struggles, and how he powered through all of these to keep the company vibrant and alive today.
From the start we understand the real purpose of the company. Not just another automotive company to make some money. Rather, a company that shows others that it is possible to build cars that can drive on sustainable energy, and that we can get out of the old adage of generating all our energy from polluting sources, such as oil, coal, and nuclear.
The common reasons why most automotive companies had not made the shift from gasoline motors to fully electric vehicles includes:
- Cost of production – the cost of production exceeds the production cost of the current range of cars on sale
- Range – electric cars don’t have a high mileage, and would therefore not be suitable for long distance commute
- Refueling time – electric cars take longer to recharge than their counterparts, the gasoline and diesel cars
- Infrastructure – the infrastructure required to host electric vehicles (charging stations, other used for their automation technology) is not yet installed, and would be costly
- Cold weather – cold weather consumes the energy faster, thus reducing the mileage that can be covered, which make them less attractive for long-distance travel
- Electric also pollute – disposal of the batteries also holds some pollution in it
- Not profitable – due to the high cost, the cars could only be sold as luxury items, to at least cover the cost
Looking at these points above would convince most of us to stop this project, and rather stick to our current means of transportation, which remains gasoline motor vehicles. But not Musk. He has a strong determination to make this work. And this strong dedication can be felt in all his conversations with stakeholders, journalists, and other individuals. He has an innate sense of purpose to make this happen.
In fact, the approach he used with SpaceX was to break down all the components to identify why space travel was not considered for the commercial industries before. One factor was also cost of production. He then dove deeper to see how they could reduce cost of production, and then identified that producing the parts themselves, instead of using multiple suppliers (who add their own profit mark ups) you remove the profit markups, and only have the initial purchase cost and manufacturing cost to develop the final product. That’s where manufacturing all of their own parts for TESLA also challenged the obstacle of ‘cost’.
Another reason you feel inspired by his companies, is for the missions they stand for. The companies were built, not to make money, but for moral reasons. He believed we needed them for existential reasons.
- That is why TESLA has noted it would make its patents freely available to all, so that they can use the research to develop their own models, and eventually bring more companies to the playing field.
- He even noted that their competition is not with other electric companies, but rather with gasoline companies.
One quite interesting problem-solving technique he mentioned that Musk followed on figuring out how to solve a problem for a product he believed would exist in the future was to “not look at the future, and figure out how to get there, but rather to start from the future and see how you got there”.
The firm is still standing strong, and deep in research and development, even with their biggest success, the Model 3, as it continues to manufacture better electric cars, and even have their foot in the door for automation. It still spends a lot of money, and will continue to try and acquire more funds to invest even heavier into its projects.
The book is good background for anyone that would like to leisurely become more acquainted with the history of the company, the struggles the company faced and overcame and continues to face on a recurring basis. It is well written, well understood. Personally though, I didn’t get the value on what I was seeking in a Musk story, and thus would only rate the book with a 3,1/5.
I have quite a few books lined up on the bookshelf, and even more in my wish list. So until then next time, have a good one!!!