Exclusive interview with Elon Musk: we'll have a self-driving Tesla within five years

How do you feel about Audi and Porsche muscling in on EV territory?

I hope that electric vehicles become at least a few per cent of all vehicles produced globally. The important thing to bear in mind is that there are 2 billion cars and trucks in the global fleet. So even when there are a few million EVs on the road, that's still not even beyond the decimal point.

Hopefully by 2020, the global EV sales will be at least a few per cent and I hope Tesla is at the forefront of that. I want the success of Tesla not to be measured on sales but how much we accelerate electric vehicle production in general.

Tesla is still a tiny company and we are currently only using a fraction of the production output of the Fremont site. When Toyota and GM were there, they were producing a million cars a year.

Even with the upcoming Model S and Model X operating at high production, we will still only do 100,000 cars a year. Tesla gets a ton of press but we're a tiny company. Which can be good, can be bad.

What's happening with your Gigafactory 1 project?

We expect to see the first Tesla batteries rolling off the line in spring of next year. Full production will happen after that but we are set to push ahead now.

We will also focus on the Powerwall, which is our consumer-facing product that allows users to store energy in the home and use it later. It makes a lot of sense for markets that already use solar power and smart meters in the home. Places like Germany and Australia.

We also have another product that will be sold to the big energy plants, where their capacity to produce is two or three times greater than demand. So they can store this surplus energy and be more efficient.

Are you worried about other big car manufacturers working on new battery technology?

Man, there's like a new battery innovation every day. I am not aware of anything that is currently better than what we will be producing in Gigafactory 1.

Maybe our rivals have something cool but we are usually the first company that these guys call, because we have more volume in batteries than anyone else. If you want to sell something, you want to sell it to the biggest investor.

Finally, as a James Bond fan, do you see it as a missed opportunity that 007 doesn't drive a Tesla?

You know, at Tesla we have a policy that we shun the idea of paying someone to like our car… And you have to pay a lot of money to get a car in a Bond film. I think the whole product placement thing in movies is getting a little out of control.

But would Bond drive our car? I think so.

Leon Poultney

Leon has been navigating a world where automotive and tech collide for almost 20 years, reporting on everything from in-car entertainment to robotised manufacturing plants. Currently, EVs are the focus of his attentions, but give it a few years and it will be electric vertical take-off and landing craft. Outside of work hours, he can be found tinkering with distinctly analogue motorcycles, because electric motors are no replacement for an old Honda inline four.