A Red Hot Tesla and Driving on the Red Planet

"S" Nw Stands for Smoking Fast Credit Tesla Motors Inc

“S” Nw Stands for Smoking Fast
Credit Tesla Motors Inc

It’s been a while since InnerSpace has revisited the topic of Tesla, which though not directly space related is still very significant for multiple reasons.

Yesterday, Tesla released a new 100 KWH battery pack for the Model S and Model X, which among other things takes the range of the Model S over 300 miles, the first electric sedan to surpass this milestone. Oh, and when paired up with the vehicle’s P1000D powertrain option in “Ludicrous” mode, it also makes the Model S the fastest production automobile on Planet Earth, delivering a mindblowing acceleration of 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds.

It is the chart in a Bloomberg article on the release which deserves some extra consideration because it so clearly shows the results of Elon Musk’s strategy of iterative improvement, something which applies to SpaceX and Solar City as well.

Iterative Improvement Credit Bloomberg

Iterative Improvement
Credit Bloomberg

As the story points out, the latest increase in performance was made possible by a number of small changes in the existing battery design, whereas the next round, which will also power the lower cost Model 3, will utilize a new cell altogether, with benefits accruing to the entire lineup.

Whether it is the original Falcon 9, which was roundly mocked for having 9 first stage engines and delivering mediocre performance, or the entire concept behind a mass produced all-electric car in the first place, the lesson, which could apply to any startup could be summed up follows:

  1. Make absolutely sure you believe in the concept
  2. Ignore the critics
  3. Get something to market sooner rather than later
  4. Listen to your customers
  5. Keep ignoring the critics
  6. Never stop innovating by making smaller, iterative improvements a daily obsession

So what does this have to do with Mars?

Elon Musk will apparently be introducing some elements of SpaceX’s Mars Colonial Transporter concept next month at the annual International Astronautical Congress meeting in Monterrey, Mexico. See point number 1. There is no doubt Musk and the rest of the design team at SpaceX believe in the concept. The critics, and there will be many, will still have a field day.

From that point on, little seems certain other than time frames will slip and designs will change. If it all comes to pass, the MCT which actually delivers the first colonists to Mars will likely be quite a bit different from what we see next month. And one other thing that brings us back to Tesla and steady improvements in battery energy density which are yielding “ludicrous” results on Earth.

By the time that first MCT lands, SpaceX will have courtesy of Tesla a bulletproof drivetrain to power a fleet of surface rovers. And it should not surprise anyone if Musk already has a map somewhere, hopefully on paper and dotted with pushpins to indicate likely sites for a network of automated charging stations.

Which takes us back to the critics. Rather than arriving as small groups of forlorn, pitiful colonists huddled against the cold and dark in small habitats which seem more like prisons than homes (which will be the picture many paint), the future residents of the Red Planet may arrive with the means to go out and explore, really explore, from the moment they touch down.


Posted in: Mars, SpaceX, Tesla

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