Tesla and Elon Musk helped revolutionize the automotive industry by showing that electric cars could be both a practical reality and commercially viable. Now, Tesla and Musk look to the skies and could revolutionize the aviation industry in the same way. An electric airplane has long been an ambition of Musk. Recently, he revealed more details about a Tesla electric plane.
Improved battery density needed for a Tesla electric plane
During Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting, someone asked Musk about Tesla’s plans for an electric airplane, as reported by CNET. His answer provided both hope and disappointment. On the one hand, he said that “battery density is improving every year.”
One of the biggest things holding back electric planes is battery density. A denser battery is needed for an electric plane to take off and to have enough electric range for it to travel long distances. A Tesla Model 3 has a battery density of 250 watt-hours per kilogram. Previously, Musk stated that an electric plane would need a battery with a density of around 400 watt-hours per kilogram. The ideal battery density is 500 watt-hours per kilogram. Musk also believes that Tesla will reach the 400 watt-hours per kilogram battery density at some point.
When will Tesla build an electric airplane?
The disappointing aspect of Musk’s answer is that it is unlikely that Tesla will build an electric airplane anytime soon. Musk said with a chuckle, “We have a lot on our plate now.” That’s very true and also an understatement. Musk is notorious for how prolific he is with his projects and ambitions. Along with expanding production of the current models, Tesla is working on getting the first Cybertrucks to customers. On top of that, Musk is busy with SpaceX, as well as the development of the Hyperloop.
Musk reiterated the need to prioritize other things over the electric plane by saying, “We had quite a few fish to fry here, so maybe one day the electric plane.” After detailing the challenges of overcoming the battery density roadblock, Musk said, “It would be a fun problem to work on at some point, but we’ve got a lot to do over the next few years, so we’ve got to focus on these things. Get them right, and then maybe one day do that.”
What will a Tesla electric plane look like?
In addition to their excellent performance, Tesla vehicles are known for their beautiful designs, with the Cybertruck a glaring exception. With this in mind, it leaves one to wonder what a Tesla electric airplane will look like. In 2015, Musk stated that he had “a design in mind,” as reported by Inverse. However, he didn’t give any details beyond this. In 2020, someone posted concept art of a possible Tesla electric airplane that looks similar to a manta ray. Musk responded that it “looks pretty cool.”
Musk has long dreamed about building an electric plane. Musk even referenced it in a cameo in Iron Man 2, saying, “I’ve got an idea for an electric jet.” However, with the need to overcome the battery density problem and deal with other pressing issues, it could be a long time before we see a Tesla electric jet flying in the sky.