We posted earlier today about what Tesla Motors' CEO Elon Musk told us about the Model S and the deal with Daimler for the smart ed. Musk spoke at the Tesla Motors during a press conference here at the Detroit Auto Showthis afternoon and gave a little more information that's worth sharing.
First, the deal for the 1,000 smart eds we heard about earlier might only be the tip of the iceberg. Musk said that Tesla could supply the packs for "tens of thousands" of electric smarts if the testing of the first thousand goes well. Musk made it a point to add that he and Tesla are proud to be working with Daimler. One reason he worked to create Tesla Motors in the first place, Musk said, was to revolutionize electric car technology. This deal does exactly that, and we might soon hear more such announcements. Musk said Tesla is looking for another one or two strategic partners, either domestic or international companies, to work with. The whole Detroit vs. Silicon Valley thing is not the way to move forward, he said. There's much more after the jump.
As for the 18650 cells that Tesla uses in its battery packs, Musk said that the ideal power cell for automotive use would be somewhere between four and ten times the size, but no one currently makes enough of those types of cells to guarantee reliability. On the other hand, there are millions of 18650 cells made each year. While they're not the best choice to move an EV, this is where the perfect certainly should not get in the way of the good. The 18650 cells are understood and can be trusted; that's vital when you're cruising down the highway. The smart ed and the Roadster both use the same 18650 cells, there are just fewer of them in the electric version of the fortwo.
Now, about the money. Musk said that he is confident that 2009 is the year Tesla turns a profit. That needs some clarification. Specifically, he said that the Roadster line should start being profitable in the middle of this year and remain profitable from then on. The company will likely reinvest that money into the Model S, so Tesla Motors won't be in the black in 2009, but Musk was confident that day will come. Currently, Tesla is building 15 Roadsters a week and production should ramp up to 30 a week in the near future. Can't come soon enough, can it?