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The man who brought the electric car back to life

TO SOME, inventor-entrepreneur Elon Musk could very well be the most important human being alive today. And that’s not because the South African American founded PayPal (which eBay now owns).

But there’s a reason that Musk is the inspiration behind that Tony Starks a.k.a. Iron Man character we see in the movies: both are indescribably brilliant, and, being inventors, design and craft things themselves. Of course the similarities end there (although Musk doesn’t look bad himself).

While Starks is ego-driven, Musk has a far grander vision not just for the companies he runs but for humanity and, ultimately, its survival.

Now that sounds like a superhero’s blurb from a comic book, but Musk’s vision, through his projects, are coming to life. But just what are we talking about here?

Musk is chief executive officer and chief technical officer of SpaceX, a space transportation company that has a $1.6-billion contract with Nasa. SpaceX has developed the reusable launch vehicles Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, as well as the Dragon spacecraft capable of transporting cargo and, soon, humans. And Musk’s space age vision? To help Nasa put human beings on Mars.

But while the Mars idea sounds quite distant for the moment, it is what Musk is doing above ground that’s earning him praise and respect from both his fans and skeptics alike. And that means his work as CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, and as chairman of SolarCity.

Silicon Valley-based Tesla Motors, named after the inventor Nikolai Tesla, builds electric cars, while SolarCity provides solar energy systems to consumers, and more importantly, charging stations for the electric vehicles.

On Aug. 2, 2006, Musk wrote a blog he called “The Secret Tesla Motors Master Plan (just between you and me),” which he summarized as follows:

1. Build sports car

2. Use that money to build an affordable car

3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car

4. While doing above, also provide zero-emission electric power generation options
At the time the blog came out, many thought him mad. But fast-forward seven years, and 1. Musk has built a sportscar called the Tesla Roadster and sold 2,400 of these at $109,000 a pop, and 2. Used the money generated from the Roadster program to build an affordable car, the Model S, so far selling some 7,500 units since 2012.


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