The man secured the future of EVs.
CarBuzz has done some proper Elon Musk bashing in the past, which was well-deserved. Interestingly, we only used to get hate from the left for saying something negative about the father of the electric vehicle. But then Musk purchased Twitter under the guise of promoting free speech, and suddenly, he became a bastion of the right. If you say something negative about him now, you get hate from both sides.
It's the strangest phenomenon. The same people who hate electric cars and all the problems associated with them are the same people who will defend Musk because he lets them say what they want on his social platform.
I could care less about Twitter, or X, or whatever he chooses to call it next. I left the platform long before a bunch of virtue-signaling celebrities rage quit after Musk took over. I despised it because it was a cesspool of misinformation and a place where logical discourse went to die.
You tweet something worth discussing, like whether the government should be spending tax money to make EVs more attractive to consumers and whether that has an impact on the free market system, and the most common response is "STFU." The irony of telling someone to STFU on a platform built for free speech is impossible to grasp for some.
In any case, this opinion piece is all about praising Musk. Believe it or not, he does deserve some praise because, over the last two months, he managed to achieve one of the biggest goals he set out back when Tesla was still in its infancy.
(For the record, I'm also a huge fan of SpaceX, and I despise people who see it as nothing more than a billionaire's attempt at firing penis-shaped rockets at the sky. Do yourself a favor and read how much we owe to the space race. GPS is a good start, but there's so much more.)
This time, I want to lavish some praise on Musk for having the foresight to build the Tesla Supercharger network. It was introduced in 2012, shortly after the Tesla Model S entered production, and in September of that year, there were only six superchargers. Now, it's one of the largest EV charging networks in the world, having just hit 50,000 chargers globally, and is the envy of every other company delivering this service.
I've recently encountered various complaints from Tesla owners, moaning about non-Tesla cars having access to the Supercharger network. How quickly Musk's cult members forget that the man himself stated it was one of Tesla's primary goals. Musk's mission was never just to build the most valuable car company in the world. He wanted the entire world to adopt electric cars, even if that meant a chunk of the population purchased something not made by his company. He has a firm understanding of the free market, even though Tesla is more than happy to dip into the bipartisan infrastructure bill's billions.
Musk had the foresight to realize that infrastructure was going to be even more important than the cars he built. Did he know that he'd started something so momentous that every other manufacturer would eventually buckle and opt for the standard he set? Since he's one of the most intelligent people alive, I like to think so. History has shown us that his biggest talent is spotting potential, and why else would he invest billions without a clear game plan?
There are no concrete figures for what the Supercharger network costs, but it's safe to assume that it is billions. For proof, look no further than the billions the government set aside to build more charging stations heading into the next decade.
While we don't know what Tesla spent, we do know that the Supercharger network only became cost-neutral in 2018. That means it cost more than it made for six whole years, giving Tesla's beancounters multiple aneurysms.
This kind of dedication to a product is rarely seen in the automotive industry. The most well-known example is the Bugatti Veyron. The Volkswagen Group lost millions on every Veyron made, but Piech knew it was a long-term investment. Bugatti-Rimac now sits at the tippy top of the high-end automotive market. The Veyron's million-dollar MSRP was considered ludicrous, but today, Bugatti's customers are willing to pay nine times that for one of 10 Centodieci hypercars.
Musk's six-year loss will lead to a much bigger payday, and all it took was the first non-Tesla automaker to announce that it would adopt the NACS charging port. Even though Musk and Jim Farley have taken some shots at each other over the years, Ford was the first to announce that it would start using the Supercharger network in 2024.
Over a period of three weeks, multiple automakers followed in Ford's footsteps. General Motors, Volvo, Honda, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz announced they'd change. It must have hurt to admit that one of the youngest automakers in the world did a better job than all of the legacy brands mentioned above. Still, that hurt means nothing if you can give your customers a better ownership experience.
And Musk didn't just teach the legacy automakers a lesson. As you might know, other charging networks are available in America, and state grants have exposed a dirty little secret. In Texas, charging companies could apply for a grant to reduce the cost of installing a charging station. The grant was for 70% of the total cost, but only to a maximum of $150,000. Every other company asked for the full $150k, but Tesla only applied for $30,000.
According to Electrek, this means Tesla superchargers cost no more than $43,000 to erect.
Why is Tesla's cost so much lower than the competition? It's pretty simple, actually. Tesla started building Superchargers in Fremont, but the production was eventually moved to the Gigafactory in New York, which only builds solar roof panels and Superchargers. In 2021, Tesla also started producing Superchargers at its Gigafactory in Shanghai.
In short, Tesla has already perfected the mass production of Superchargers, bringing the cost way down from when it started. Being so far out in front of the competition has also given Tesla the edge in terms of ease of use. If you want to charge a Tesla, you simply plug it in.
The payment happens in the background; you don't have to worry about it, but only recently are other automakers really getting the Plug & Charge system to work seamlessly.
The Supercharger network may be Tesla's biggest asset. As an automaker, its sales are still strong, but it's not an unbeatable colossus. The Model S is over a decade old, the overall build quality across the range is appalling, and Full Self-Driving continues to be a contentious issue. I don't care what the Tesla fanboys say. FSD and Autopilot are nothing more than Level 2 systems, and if you're caught using them as anything more than that, the government should take your car and crush it.
But even if Tesla stopped producing cars tomorrow, it will always be a billion-dollar business thanks to the Supercharger network.
And even though I still think Elon Musk deserves to be called out for multiple idiotic statements, I believe in giving credit where it's due. Not only did Musk change the automotive landscape forever, but he found a way to keep it going. In a world full of flashes in the pan, this kind of genius deserves praise.