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Business Insight

Tesla Motor's Elon Musk

Rosa Sobrino

We spoke to Elon Musk for "View from the Top," a series of business leaders explaining how they stay ahead of the competition. The pioneering CEO of US electric carmaker Tesla Motors has turned his attention to other ventures, including commercial space exploration. He also wants to make his mark in Japan.

The innovative tech entrepreneur recently surprised the world with a bold announcement. He announced that Tesla will manufacture rechargeable batteries that can supply household energy needs. "We have to come up with the solution that is the missing piece," Musk says. "That is the thing that's needed to have proper transition to a sustainable energy world."

Demand for home batteries is rising around the world for use as emergency back-up power source and to store surplus electricity generated by solar power systems.

Musk says Tesla's new products are very different from batteries already on the market, which are typically expensive and bulky, and it will help with the transition to sustainable energy. Musk says "in order to have a good future essentially, we have to have sustainable power generation, which I think is primarily solar, but combined with also wind and geothermal and hydro. You've got to able to store the energy you produce during the day, so that you can use it at night. And you combine that with electric transportation and now you have a fully sustainable future."

Tesla's battery is unlike anything that's ever been produced. Previous efforts by rival companies have been boxy and sit on the floor. "And they tend to be lead acid and they sort of smell bad," Musk says. "They look bad and they were expensive. That's why people don't want them."

One of the most notable features is the price. A model with a capacity of 10 kilowatt-hours will sell for 3,500 dollars. That's much cheaper than comparable batteries produced by Japanese firms.

Tesla executives are planning to build a huge battery factory in Nevada, hoping to cut costs by expanding production.

They aim to begin selling their batteries in Japan soon. "We're going to offer our product and if it's the right product, people will buy it," Musk says. "If ours is successful, others will copy it, but that's fine. In order to for us to have a good future, we have to have solar power plus batteries, plus electric cars. And then it's good times."

First Musk changed the way people think about electric cars, then he slashed the costs involved in launching a rocket. Now he appears to be on the verge of transforming the market for rechargeable batteries.

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