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Elon Musk: Entrepreneurs Are Missing Opportunities in Heavy Industry

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is not against entrepreneurs making apps for smartphones, but he wants more of them to focus on heavy industry – where he says the opportunities are “tremendous”.

The Tesla CEO made the comment while speaking with Ford CEO Jim Farley in a Twitter space events On Thursday evening. The two announced that Tesla Supercharger stations would become available to owners of Ford electric vehicles (for Tesla customers who already have long waiting times).

At one point in the conversation, Farley asked Musk about his experience processing raw materials near Corpus Christi, Texas, where Tesla set up base on a lithium refinery earlier this month.

Lithium hydroxide, which the facility will package and ship, is a core ingredient in electric vehicle batteries, but it is in short domestic supply. Musk said Thursday that there is plenty of lithium globally, but Tesla identified a “critical choke point” in its processing. It’s something Tesla won’t do on its own, he said, but is forced to.

“Our real goal is to do the least amount possible, but then we end up hitting these chokepoints — or we anticipate hitting chokepoints,” he said. “So a lot of the vertical integration is really out of necessity.”

Musk said Tesla would happily use suppliers if they were “solving the problem” and if they could clearly continue to meet the carmaker’s production needs, which could redirect resources elsewhere. .

Tesla is also building a facility at its Texas Gigafactory to produce cathodes, another critical part of EV batteries.

‘Over-allocation of talent’

Musk said he wants more entrepreneurs to get involved in heavy industry.

“I see so many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley chasing a software startup or the latest big thing. But not enough talent in North America goes into heavy industry,” he said. “And the crazy thing is that in heavy industry The opportunity is tremendous. So I really want to encourage entrepreneurs to think about things that don’t involve, you know, basically ending up on a phone.

“Apps on phones, we need them, but like, you know, I think we have an over-allocation of talent towards apps on phones,” he said.

Venture capitalist Paul Graham, co-founder of startup accelerator Y Combinator, commented last month on the “proliferation of software companies”, Tweet, “Creating material goods is hard. But if you’re interested in it, don’t let that scare you.

musk answered“Not enough talent in manufacturing and heavy industries.”

One entrepreneur focused on manufacturing for the EV space, it turns out, was an early Tesla employee: Gene Berdichevsky, CEO of Sila Nanotechnologies. His company, founded in 2011, makes an anode material that can replace graphite, another mineral bottleneck for EV batteries. According to Wards Intelligence, the US imports nearly all of its graphite, with about a third coming from China.

“I firmly believed that all ground transportation would be electric, and the big limiting factor in that was chemistry and the performance of lithium-ion batteries,” Berdichevsky said. Washington Post in March.

A year ago, Mercedes-Benz announced that it would incorporate Sila’s silicon anode chemistry into batteries for its upcoming G-Class electric vehicles.

Musk told Farley on Thursday that Tesla is trying to figure out, “Do we even need to do the anode? Expect not to. If someone else could please do that, that would be great.” Synthetic graphite, there’s a huge market for it.” He advised the entrepreneurs to supply it.

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