Tesla CEO: Model X SUV to Be Unveiled in 2011, $30K Car in 4 Years

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Palm Springs, California — Even though Tesla’s second electric vehicle the Model S is still about two years away from the market, Tesla CEO Elon Musk laid out the company’s road map for two more new electric cars at the Cleantech Investor Summit in Palm Springs, California on Wednesday. Tesla will unveil the Model X SUV, which will be “cooler” than any SUV or minivan on the market, later this year, said Musk, and in about four years will have developed a truly “mainstream” car that will cost $30,000.

Musk has talked about both cars before. Back in 2008, he was even hoping the mainstream electric car could go for as low as $20,000. And Musk spoke about the Model X SUV at a recent tour of Tesla’s recently acquired NUMMI plant. But as the company gets closer to launching the Model S, it’ll get that much closer to Musk’s original vision of making electric vehicles truly mainstream.

As far as how fast EVs will become mainstream Musk had some pretty aggressive predictions going. By 2020 it’ll be dirt cheap to have a long range vehicle battery, said Musk. By 2030, the only cars sold in America will be electric cars, and by midcentury the vast majority of cars on the road will be electric, said Musk. Those are tall orders, and mere decades away. All transportation is going electric, except — ironically — rockets, said Musk (Musk is the founder of rocket company SpaceX).

But first in line, the Model S. Coming in late 2012 or 2013 (if it’s on time), the Model S is being designed so that people would buy it even if wasn’t electric. “It’s arguably the most advanced car in the world.” The battery pack can even be swamped out in under a minute, said Musk — which I’m sure got the attention of the Better Place folks.

Several questions from the audience at the conference asked Musk for advice on running companies and competing in the marketplace. Musk advised entrepreneurs to build a useful prototype as soon as possible for their ideas, for the least amount of money. That’s the first thing we did with Tesla, said Musk, because only so many things can be explained by power point.

In addition, Musk said, allow for a certain amount of chaos in an organization — allow for failure. Google is pretty good at this, said Musk, and we plan to eventually implement time for SpaceX and Tesla employees to work on their own projects. Finally, let employees have some irreverence, said Musk. For example, for a SpaceX rocket launch SpaceX employees hid a secret wheel of cheese inside the vessel.

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