After electric cars, reusable rockets, hyperloop tunnels and brain chips, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Elon Musk decided to launch a new company to build the world’s first electric airplane. In fact, he floated the very idea in September 2018 during an interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast (the one involving weed smoking and whisky drinking that made headlines everywhere at the time).
The plane Musk had in mind would be capable of vertical take-off and landing, a feature known as VTOL, and flying at supersonic speeds at high altitudes.
“No,” Musk said when asked if he had any near-term plans to make an electric aircraft. “I think it’s incredibly difficult to bring an aircraft to production and meet all the regulatory requirements worldwide,” he explained. “It’s a very difficult thing… It takes a massive amount of effort to do any one of these things, so you can’t do them all.”
The podcast host suggested to Musk that he could leverage Tesla’s recent success on the stock market to fund new research and development, such as electric aircraft, if needed.
But “that’s not how it works,” Musk interrupted. “It’s not like if we just had more money, you could spend it effectively on R&D.”
“But if there was a factory producing excellent engineers, that would be true,” he added.
Electric VTOL planes aren’t completely off the table, though. Musk hinted that he might give the idea more thought once his other projects, particularly electric cars and solar panels, reach their desired scales. After all, “all transport will be electric, except for rockets,” the entrepreneur said.
“I’ve thought about this quite a lot, quite a lot,” Musk said of the electric jet design during the Joe Rogan interview in 2018. “The trick is that you have to transition to level flight. The thing you’d use for vertical takeoff and landing is not suitable for high speed flight.”