By Ryan Bradley, senior editor
FORTUNE -- Is there anything that Elon Musk enjoys more than shaming his haters? Here he is at Wednesday's D11 conference, reveling in running one of the few remaining electric car startups, one with stock that just passed the $100 mark, enjoying calling out all those who said it couldn't be done. "Before we were able to get the roadster out, they'd say you couldn't possibly make the car work. When we did, they said: Well, nobody's going to buy it. And people did. Then, when we announced the Model S, so many people called bullshit on that it was ridiculous. We were able to bring it to market, they said we wouldn't be able to produce at volume, we did that, and then they said we would never be profitable, and we did that in Q1. So I'm hopeful that people will observe that there is a trend here." After a pause, the audience cackles and applauds.
Musk went on to consider bending space to allow for faster-than-light travel, Mars settlements, and a rapid transit system called a Hyperloop that is three or four times faster than a bullet train, would never crash, and is immune to weather. No small dreams for this guy. But perhaps the biggest news was the announcement of a rapid expansion of Tesla's Supercharge stations. Soon -- within two-years, he said -- Tesla owners will be able to drive cross-country using Supercharge, filling up a 200-plus mile battery in a little under an hour.
I've written about Tesla (TSLA) and the importance of a rapid-charging network before, mostly to say that, as exciting as the Supercharger is, it's really mostly a marketing tool, a way to alleviate the biggest issue surrounding electric car ownership, which is range anxiety. Musk's announcement feels like a direct rebuke. The company is building a national network! But a national network is overstating things. The ability to drive cross-country in an electric vehicle that's as fast and fun to drive as the Model S is certainly neat. How many people will? Not many, is my guess (though: sign me up!). As several owners of electric vehicle charging companies told me , the Supercharger is a bit of Musk magic: a great add-on to help sell more cars and a way to move the industry forward but by no means a comprehensive piece of EV infrastructure. That, unfortunately, will take time. More time, most likely, than the $30,000 EV Musk promises in three years. By the time all our cities and places in between have enough charging stations to make EV ownership no question at all, Musk will have moved on. To Mars, maybe.
The Japanese automaker was a perennial also-ran, behind Honda and Toyota. Until now. Nissan is making deft moves just as its rivals stall.
By Doron Levin, contributor
FORTUNE -- Japan's auto industry has been battered by disasters natural and unnatural unlike this year. A tragic earthquake and a steroidal yen have wreaked havoc on the bottom lines of major firms Honda and Toyota. The exception? Nissan. The perennial third place finisher has MOREAug 23, 2011 8:56 AM ET
Nissan really wants to be the leader in electric vehicles. Maybe that's why it's being coy about how many they plan to sell.
Nissan executives have been notoriously optimistic about the electric vehicle market, and not without a vested interest: they hope to become the leading manufacturer of green cars. So far, the company's image has done well from the refresh. Nissan has received plenty of press for its aggressive pursuit MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Nov 18, 2010 1:18 PM ET
The hot battery maker has a balance sheet problem -- lots of inventory of expensive EV batteries. It looks like the adoption curve for electric vehicles is flatter than anyone thought.
Battery maker A123 was supposed to rev up the electric vehicle revolution. When the company went public in September 2009, Wall Street loved it. But recently, A123 (AONE) has had a hard time pleasing the Street, missing earnings estimates even MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Nov 15, 2010 3:00 AM ET
Better Place is working with GE to finance purchases of batteries for its switching stations and electric car system. But since most EVs come with the batteries built in, the financing won't be a panacea for the pricey new cars.
The electric vehicle industry's major hurdle these days is the exact same piece of hardware that's supposed to power it. Batteries for electric cars can cost up to $10,000 a piece. MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Nov 9, 2010 12:45 PM ET
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