Closing the Gate on Possibilities?

by Gill D on September 08, 2020

Co-found of Microsoft, Bill Gates, made some comments recently that we could interpret as a subtle jibe or perhaps a snub directed towards Tesla. In his latest blog post, Gates focuses on climate change, electric vehicles, and better batteries for EVs. He neglects to mention Tesla in his praise of electric vehicle pick-up trucks as if he’s never heard of Cybertruck or the Tesla Semi:

“Plus, increased competition in the market means there are more choices available to customers than ever before, from compact sedans to sleek sports cars. You’ll even be able to buy an all-electric pick-up truck soon thanks to legacy companies like GM and Ford and new carmakers like Rivian and Bollinger.”

But he did go further to shoot down the idea of a concept like the Tesla Semi, as well as refute the possibility of electric airplanes, which is something Tesla CEO, Musk has envisioned for the future.

Gates added this to his post:

“The problem is that batteries are big and heavy. The more weight you’re trying to move, the more batteries you need to power the vehicle. But the more batteries you use, the more weight you add—and the more power you need. Even with big breakthroughs in battery technology, electric vehicles will probably never be a practical solution for things like 18-wheelers, cargo ships, and passenger jets. Electricity works when you need to cover short distances, but we need a different solution for heavy, long-haul vehicles.”

So, while Bill Gates acknowledged that EVs are an ideal solution for short distances, he didn’t agree that electric-powered batteries are going to work for heavy-duty vehicles like 18-wheelers. As Gates explained, EVs can’t work as long-haul vehicles because batteries are big and heavy, which means more weight would require batteries, and more batteries would result in additional weight. Gates feels that cheaper alternative fuels are a better solution for all-electric cars that need to go the distance, namely biofuels and electrofuels.

Throughout his post, he makes it clear that he supports biofuels for future transport, but replacing gasoline is not a short-term solution. Electrofuels combine the hydrogen molecules in water with the carbon in carbon dioxide to create a liquid fuel that could work in existing internal combustion engines. According to the software engineer, electrofuels have a lot of potential, but they remain very expensive, costing about 3 to 7 times the price of fossil fuels. He added that for electrofuels to work, the electricity used to create them would need to come from zero-carbon sources. 

There was obviously no direct reference to Tesla or the company’s projects but his comments suggest that he doesn’t support Musk’s ideas for future electric air travel or that the Tesla Semi is going to work as a viable alternative to fossil fuel trucks.

What we do know is that the Tesla Semi is going to production soon. The Tesla Semi is an all-electric battery-powered Class 8 semi-truck that is currently in development. Tesla announced the truck would have a 500 miles (805 km) range on a full charge and with its new batteries, it would be able to run for 400 miles (640 km) after an 80% charge in 30 minutes using a solar-powered "Tesla Megacharger" charging station. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk said the Semi would come standard with Tesla Autopilot that allows semi-autonomous driving on highways.

Many have doubted Musk’s ideas and he’s proved time and time again that his projects are not far-fetched. Musk is a visionary and he keeps us wanting more with every new concept he has. 

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