9 burning questions for Elon Musk

Last week, I tried to ask Elon Musk a question after his appearance at the California Public Utilities Commission. No luck: Despite the stalking, he slipped out a side door. He’s a highly mobile man who is always on the move: Today he’s in Washington, D.C., testifying before a Senate Appropriations Committee about the need for more competition in national security space launches.

What did I want to ask? With a nod to BuzzFeed and their penchant for lists, here’s the top nine.

1.  Why isn’t California on the list of four states being considered for the Gigafactory?

2. Is it safe to assume that the Gigafactory will be located on or near a Union Pacific rail line?

3. How many Tesla employees work on the dedicated self-driving cars/autopilot/autonomous vehicles team that reports directly to you?

4. If you taught elementary school science, how would you explain the difference between power and energy?

5. Have you traveled to China and Hong Kong before, and if so, when?

6. Who drives the most tricked-out Model S: you or JB Straubel?

7. You confirmed that you met with Apple about a year ago. Was Tim Cook at the meeting? What did y’all talk about?

8. Are you planning to get more personally involved in advocating or lobbying for a national carbon tax?

9. What area will be the largest focus of the Musk Foundation’s philanthropy in the next five years?

Got a question of your own? Ping me at dhull@mercurynews.com or comment below!

In this Friday, June 22, 2012 file photo, Tesla CEO Elon Musk walks past the Tesla Model S after a news conference at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif.






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  • Jim5437532

    The media should ask some tough questions and demand direct honest answers about Tesla’s safety problems.

    I think it was poor Tesla Motors designs, to locate a large lithium automotive battery so close to the roadway with such light protection. Customers of Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs, and Toyotas Rav4EV allegedly haven’t had any fires from road debris or vehicle accidents; yet Tesla Motors has recently had three.

    I think Tesla poorly designed some of its charge connections. Some of the charge connections seem to be not to be robust enough for the amount of current duration. Also the configuration of adapters puts an undue amount of stress on the wall outlets and connectors which can lead to outlet failures, connector failures and fires. Also the design configuration puts a lot of connections close together which allows the concentration of heat and increases the probability of fire. In my opinion they are poor engineering designs that are fire hazards.

    What about the Tesla related garage fire in Toronto? What caused the Tesla related garage fire in Toronto? The public should know what the fire department investigation found. I would prefer an independent non-bias investigation. I’m hoping to hear reports from the fire departments investigation, because I don’t trust Tesla’s “fire investigations”, which seem more like coverups. Allegedly the fire department said the source of the fire was the Tesla.

    Why is Tesla Motors dragging its feet on the Tesla charger related fire hazard recall? When is Tesla motors going to comply with the recall? It wasn’t until people reported the charger problems to the media and government that Tesla declared a recall. Tesla is reactive instead of proactive. Tesla charging systems have been known to be hazardous for about a year, perhaps more, yet the safety hazards have not been fixed.

    Tesla manufactures more excuses & hype, then cars. Tesla Motors still has not delivered on the fire hazard recall. Tesla has been dragging its feet on safety and the recall.

    There has been at least five significant Tesla related fires.

    The most recent Tesla garage fire to hit the news was in Toronto. The car supposedly wasn’t even plugged in, so the charging system isn’t likely to be a source in that fire. There should be disclosure on this fire. The public should know where and how this fire started. Was the origin of the fire the Tesla? How did the fire start? Was it a Tesla design or manufacturing fault?

    There has been at least five Tesla fires. Two Teslas caught on fire after only running over road debris. One Tesla caught on fire and EXPLODED after being in an accident in Mexico. There was a Tesla fire in a California garage, that the Tesla charger connection was ruled as a possible source of the fire by the fire department. Recently there was a Tesla garage fire in Toronto, that so far I haven’t heard the fire department give a ruling. Arguably there has been scores, possibly hundreds of minor Tesla fires. There has been a plethora of Tesla charge connectors that have overheated, melted and burned. Though many Tesla shills will argue that they are not fire. Categorically and scientifically they are often classified as fire. Rapid oxidation or rapid decomposition from excessive heat is often classified as fire. Like the metaphor; where there is smoke, there is fire.

    A few months ago there was a Tesla related garage fire in California that the fire department ruled that the Tesla Motors charging system was a possible source of the fire. A firefighter was injured responding to the fire. The suspect portion of the Tesla charging system that the fire department in California determined was a possible source of the California garage fire, is also suspected in many other Tesla charger reported cases that Tesla charge connections have overheated, melted and burned. Tesla issued a software “fix”, however Tesla charge connectors have continued to overheat, melt and burn despite the so-called “fix”.

    Some customers allege that the charger related software update that is supposed to reduce current when a fault is detected, in some cases actually increases the current. The so-called “fix” has introduced other problems, one of the alleged problems is a safety hazard. One customer claimed that they experienced a glitch that increases current when a fault is detected before the charger related software update. Either way the alleged condition supposedly can dangerously increase the current above user settings.

    The Tesla model S. still has defects that make it a fire hazard. Tesla Motors charger connections are still overheating, melting and burning. Tesla Motors batteries are poorly located and poorly protected.

    On 01/09/2014 Elon Musk said that replacement adapters that are part of the recall would be mailed out within two weeks. A month later Tesla customers still have not received the replacement adapters that are part of the Tesla model S. recall.

    Several people have been injured by faulty Tesla charge connectors. Tesla is big on making promises and hype, but short on delivery. Tesla needs to start making safety a top priority. Tesla needs to stop playing blame games and games with semantics. Tesla needs to stop lying. Tesla needs to be proactive instead of reactive. Tesla is being a follower of technology, rather than a leader. Tesla is a greedy corporation that has a disregard for safety.

    The Tesla model S. charger recall is for the vast majority of Tesla model Ss. There is nearly 30,000 Teslas that are part of the recall, that have a potential fire hazard. So far it seems not any customers have been mailed warnings about these fire hazards. Allegedly some customers are only finding out about the recall fire hazards after having failures and then searching the Internet.

    The media should do a better job. The vast majority of news coverage on Tesla has been creampuff articles that seem more like advertising then news articles. The media should not give favorable treatment to greedy corporations that skimp on safety. The media should scrutinize Tesla more, instead of shilling for them and treating them with kid gloves.

    The news media has done a horrible job covering the Tesla fires and fire hazards. The news media makes it sound like there isn’t any Tesla fire hazards. The news media makes it sound like there isn’t any problems with Tesla chargers. The news media makes it sound like all of the Tesla charger problems is the fault of wall outlets and house wiring. The news media makes it sound like, Tesla owners have already received replacement adapters under the recall.

    The news media should do investigative reporting, instead of shilling for greedy corporations. The news media shouldn’t tell lies to inflate stock prices. The media shouldn’t be in bed with Tesla. The news media shouldn’t be veiled advertising. The news media should be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem. The news media should not be sweeping safety hazards under the carpet.














    Tesla burns and explodes in Mexico, after a crash.

    Is faulty Tesla Motors designs going to have to cause deaths before Tesla Motors, Tesla fan boys, and the news media start taking safety seriously? Even then I suspect some of them will try to play blame games.

    If Tesla was proactive and a leader of technology, their products would have been better designed.

    The Tesla charge connections have been known to be a fire hazard for about a year. That should have been time for Tesla to recognize the problems and come up with engineering solutions. Instead Tesla has been playing blame games, games of semantics and making token efforts.

    Tesla Motors and Tesla fan boys should not be censoring, harassing, threatening, slandering and bullying safety advocates, customers with unsafe defective products, critics, and skeptics. Tesla has a culture that has a disregard for safety.

    Allegedly nearly 3% (nearly 900) Tesla charger adapters have been returned and or reported defective.

    If you’re willing to settle for a Tesla, that’s your choice. My standards are much higher.

    Is a Tesla in an attached garage going to have to catch fire and burn down a house and result in a death of a family before people wake up and smell the coffee?

    • Alan Dale Brown

      uh, you don’t have some agenda here, do you? There is a safety concern, but I think you’re exaggerating. I think this was a high-speed crash in Mexico, and the driver walked away – you don’t care to mention that. Why does Consumer Reports rate them so highly – because they’re part of the conspiracy?

      • CGriffin

        Jim is a total psychopath! He posts this same garbage all over the internet in an attempt to get TSLA stock to tank. He has obviously heavily shorted the stock and has lost his a$$ (and his mind in the process). EVERYTHING he says is just personal opinion, exaggerated half-truths, and outright lies. Anyone who does any real research into Jim’s claims will find out the truth.

        And about that crash in Mexico… the drunk driver (and two women in the car with him) were travelling at over 100 mph through a roundabout. The car hit a speed “hump” and went airborne. It sheared off over 15 feet of concrete retaining wall, ripping the wheels off the car. The car continued at high speed, sliding on the battery pack’s armor plate, and then went “through” a 6 or 7 foot tall concrete wall. After crashing through the large wall, it went head-on into a large tree. After finally coming to a stop, all three people opened their doors and got out with only minor injuries. The drunk driver “ran” away from the scene! A few minutes later, the badly damaged battery pack did catch fire. Keep in mind, the battery pack’s armor plate scraped across the jagged, broken pieces of two concrete walls with the entire car’s weight (4700 pounds) on top of them.

        This car is completely remarkable in its ability to protect its passengers from injury in a crash. IMO, just about any other car would have stopped “dead” at the larger concrete wall, not gone completely through it.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    I hope you ask better questions than those nine. I have no interest in any of the answers.

  • S. Galliver

    I’m with Ivor. I don’t mean to be harsh, but yikes. No wonder he slipped out a side door. The first question is interesting, but they go quickly downhill from there.

  • sociopathic


    1. California is very business unfriendly. From the tax situation, to the workers compensation and finally to business regulations. Of course if given a chance a business would choose NOT to expand in CA.

    2. Of course. Rails are some of the most economic means of moving large amounts (based upon mass) economically.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Ok, alternative questions I would find more interesting:

    1) Why did Scott Pace in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense say your SpaceX accounting practices seem to be magical? In a derogatory manner. That did not sound like an impartial expert in the field and it needs addressing.

    2) You state ULA had two mishaps and therefore not a string of 68 perfect flights. Yet Gass claims they rate “perfect” by what their customers say. Is this true? And would it also be true of your flights? It seemed you avoided answering this question. Please include references.

    3) With Wyoming having over 50% of the worlds supply of lithium will you also get into the mining of the material? (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium.) Do you expect all of the lithium in the gigafactory to be supplied from within the USA?

    4) When can we expect an AWD car with maximum acceleration on all four wheels and a 500 mile range?

  • Keef Wivaneff

    There have been many reports from owners that the brake pedal sometimes sinks to the floor.

    That is bad enough but once the pedal goes to the floor it is ridiculously easy to accidentally hit the accelerator pedal as well as the (useless) brake.

    Tesla themselves admit the problem but say it is the drivers fault!

    Here is just one complaint of many…

    Dr. Bob Reinke | 26. MÄRZ 2014

    Have severak times complained to the Chicago service center about this life threatening problem and been told that the brakes will always disable and overcome the the go-peddle. There are several problems with this false statement: I have tested the sequence on my P85 and found that if you are on the brake and enable the go peddle, the car goes. If you have enough brake peddle left, you can slow the car. The reason I say, “Enough brake peddle left,” is because my brake peddle fades to the floor in about 5 to 20 seconds, depending on the previous brake use. The fading is worst in heavy stop and go traffic. The brake and go-peddle have a little over an inch side clearance in my Tesla and I can normally stop the car with my foot 7/8 on the brake peddle; however, that leaves enough of my size 10s hanging off the brake peddle, and over the go-peddle. Enough to depress the go-peddle when the leaking brakes bleed down to allow my shoe to engage the go-peddle. At that point, pressing harder on the floored brake peddle only depresses the go-peddle harder. With no further brake force, the Tesla rockets into whatever is in front of you.

    when complaining about this problem at the Chicago service center, I was told that the Model S brakes don’t bleed down. I found that the brakes in 6 of the 10 cars in for service all bled to the floor in less than 20 seconds. Then I was told that I was pressing too hard. How hard does Tesla think the driver is going to depress the brakes while it is charging into the rear of the car in front of him.

    The unexpected acceleration is caused by several Tesla faults: The close proximity of the use diametrically opposed peddles—My 56 Oldsmobile had about 7 inches between. Perhaps they were smarter then? The brakes under NHTSA are supposed to override the throttle. Tesla brakes leak-down making them worthless, and let the shoe push the go-peddle. The Gong is ineffective because it sounds incessently over inconsequential alarms. Who is listening for a gong while your car is pushing the car ahead of you into the car in front of him. I now drive wothout shoes, so I can feel my foot on the break, or touching the go-peddle. The right fix would be to move the peddles, or perhaps make the return spring on the go beddle stiffer to telegraph to your shoe it is on it; however, if Tesla is too cheep to fix the peddles the cheaper fix is a keyboard stroke to properly softwear shut-down the go-peddle while the brake peddle is off the home proximiry switch.

    I was told by the service tech that the brake always overrides the go peddle. Then he held the brake while he floored the go peddle, the rear of the Tesla humped up like a bull in heat and burned two black marks under the rear tires. Just like my Toyota did before the fix. Then he said that the brakes actually reduced the power of the drive motors. Obviously, it didn’t reduce the power enough to prevent the Model S from taking off after the brake peddle bled to the floor in stopped traffic.

    Perhaps the most relavant question should be can Elon afford to pay 4 billion dollar penalty (GM) for failing to respond to a clear safety problem? All the ridicule and smart remarks on this thread only iritate and resolve nothing of the problem. Apparently, those who are having the Uncontrolled Acceleration problem are the only who understand the danger.

    Undoubtedly, there are the smart elete reading this who can never make a mistake, who will pick this entry apart, and solve nothing–but that prevents no deaths caused by an easily softwear mended malfunction. The fix costs is so little to save one life.”

    and THIS….

    “when complaining about this problem at the Chicago service center, I was told that the Model S brakes don’t bleed down. I found that the brakes in 6 of the 10 cars in for service all bled to the floor in less than 20 seconds. Then I was told that I was pressing too hard. How hard does Tesla think the driver is going to depress the brakes while it is charging into the rear of the car in front of him.”

    The shareholders and fan-boys will howl with indignation but THIS IS A DEFECT and the cars should be off the road until it is fixed.

    Dr. Bob Reinke | 28. MÄRZ 2014
    Thank you and other analyticals on this forum for taking the time to study this design fault. I originally remarked here in response to the entry about accidents caused by the brake and throttle being inordinatly close together on the Model S. The added fleet problem with brake fade makes the proximity of the peddles dangerous. I say, “Fleet problem,” because the Chicago service managers explanation of the brake peddle fade, after findint the same fade on 6 of 10 cars, was that it was caused by the anti-lock pump, and there was/is no fix.