November 1, 2016


Say what you like about Elon Musk, he really does not think small. Now he has set his sights on providing developing nations with battery power and has worked out that 100 Gigafactories could convert the whole world to sustainable energy.

This wasn’t a considered statement and it wasn’t even delivered as a blog post, which is Tesla’s usual method of imparting life-changing information. No, this revelation came as part of a casual discussion between Musk and Leonardo DiCaprio, who visited Nevada’s Gigafactory One as part of his National Geographic documentary: Before the Flood.

Batteries could be the ultimate answer

DiCaprio is a fervent environmental campaigner, and UN ambassador who works to combat climate change. He went in with an unusual angle, asking Musk how an automaker’s personal battery supply in Nevada could actually benefit the world at large. Musk’s answer, we have to say, was a good one.

He argues that battery packs circumvent the need for power stations and infrastructure. He likens it to the phone network, where developing nations skipped the traditional landline altogether.

“The advantage of solar and batteries is that you can avoid the problem of building electricity plants at all,” he said. “So you could be in a remote village and have solar panels that charge a battery pack and that supplies power to the whole village without having to run thousands of miles of high voltage cable.

“In a lot of  developing countries they just didn’t do landline phones, they went straight to cellular.”

This dream would cost $500 billion

To achieve that goal, he’d need approximately 100 Gigafactories and the general consensus is that the Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, cost $5 billion. So Musk only needs to raise $500 billion and he can make this a reality.

“We actually did the calculations and said: ‘What would it take to transition the whole world to sustainable energy? What kind of throughput would you actually need?’

“We need 100 Gigafactories to supply the whole world with its energy. It’s manageable. The point of the Gigafactory is to get the cost of batteries down to a point where they’re affordable. Batteries are critical to a sustainable energy future. The sun doesn’t shine all the time, so we need to store the energy in a battery.”

Of course, Musk recognises the fact that he probably can’t do this alone. He argues that if the mainstream auto manufacturers, the power companies and more all set their sights on their own Gigafactories, then together they could cover the world’s energy requirements. With a carbon tax and the world’s governments pushing for a cleaner future, he thinks we can get there quite quickly.

Powerpack 2 could power the world

We’ve pointed out just what a stunning combination the Powerpack 2 and a more efficient solar panel could prove to be in developing nations. It’s a simple concept, the community doesn’t need to be connected to a grid of any kind and this can bring a central source of electricity to remote villages that currently rely on a rickety old generator that cannot hope to provide the whole population with power.

So this is really life changing technology for the world at large and Tesla now has to work with charities around the world to make it affordable and commercially viable. If it can do that, then the Powerpack has the capacity to bring clean electricity to the Third World and that could yet prove to be Musk’s crowning glory. So far it has powered utilities companies and corporations, but this really could be the future for the world’ poorest people and a means to put an end to climate change.

You can watch DiCaprio’s investigation into climate change in full here.

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