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Imagine a $2,000 car… or a $100 laptop…or a $70 iPhone… or imagine any product
ten times cheaper than it was.
Imagine the fundamental market change thatwould bring.
Imagine the amount of demand there would befor that $2,000 car or $100 laptop or $70 iPhone.
That’s what Elon Musk imagined 15 yearsago when he sat on a pile of $165 million dollars.
Elon Musk’s businesses are all centeredaround some the most basic principles of economics out there.
When he starts a business, he’s not necessarilytrying to do something new, he’s trying to do something right.
Musk made most of his early fortune throughhis involvement with PayPal.
In 1999 he founded a company called X.comwhich was quickly bought by Confinity—the
creators of PayPal—so when PayPal was boughtby eBay in 2002, Musk’s 11.7% ownership
of the company translated to $165 milliondollars.
Elon Musk has always been deeply passionateabout space exploration and, as anyone knows,
public interest in space has been fallingsince the Apollo era.
Therefore, Musk’s plan with his newfoundfortune was to launch a rocket to mars carrying
a small greenhouse that would grow plantson the surface of the red planet.
Basically, he wanted to take all his moneyand put it into a big publicity stunt for space exploration.
But he had a problem—it was too expensive.
The cost of launches was absolutely immenseand, even when Musk tried to buy decommissioned
退役洲际导弹 但他仍无法启动这个项目 不过他还是有所发现的
Russian ICBM’s, he couldn’t find a wayto pull off the project, but he had discovered something.
The space launch industry was ripe for disruption.
Here’s Joseph, the economics expert fromReal Life Lore to explain why.
“The rocket development and space-launchcompanies before Space X were essentially aggregators.
They bought engines and guidance systems andall the other various components from other
companies to cobble together one completedrocket.
But all the different component suppliersalso had their own component suppliers to make their product.
The suppliers of the suppliers not only hadto cover their development and manufacturing
costs, they had to sell their components ata markup in order to make a profit, and then
同样的 其他公司也得如此 这就意味着
the next component manufacturer had to dothe same which means that by the time the
component gets to the company assembling therocket, it’s expensive.
Not only that, but the assembly company alsohas to pay for employees that work to actually
figure out how to make all of the differentpieces work together.
不过Space X 完全不同
SpaceX however, works differently.
It makes 85% of the components it uses itself,which allows it to make cheaper parts.
比如说Space X从外部购买无线电设备 每个得花费5到10万美元
For example, if SpaceX had bought their radiosexternally they would be paying $50,000-100,000
dollars each, but since they develop theminternally they only cost $5,000 each to build,
a dramatic improvement in reducing cost.”
Joseph from Real Life Lore has a brand newbook which includes two fantastic chapters
解释了一些简单的经济学概念 我待会回放上链接 我们先来谈谈特斯拉
explaining simple economic concepts like thisthat I’ll link in the description, but let’s talk Tesla.
Tesla’s economic strategy is fairly similarto SpaceX’s.
特斯拉电动车有5300个组件 而公司本身就能解决80%的组件问题 不过对于关键部分
Tesla themselves makes about 80% of the 5,300parts in a Tesla car, but for the most part
比如电池 它们自己不生产 至少现在还没有
they don’t make these, the batteries, atleast yet.
Batteries are very difficult to make at acompetitive price so very few companies do.
电池的三大巨头松下 比亚迪 LG占据了世界63%的市场份额
The largest three manufacturers—Panasonic,BYD, and LG Chem—make a combined 63% of the world’s batteries.
Tesla, therefore, has historically just boughtbatteries from Panasonic at a cost of about
$200 per kWh.
But that means that Tesla’s smallest batterypack, the 50 kWh version, costs $10,000 dollars just in components.
When you’re trying to sell a $35,000 dollarcar and make a profit, that’s a significant
cost that can be reduced.
Therefore, Tesla is attempting to reduce thecost of their batteries by 30% by building
their own factory in a joint-venture withPanasonic.
Their long-term goal, however, is to dropthe battery price below $100 dollars per kWh
which would either double the range or halvethe price of that 50 kWh battery pack.
But the vertical integration of Tesla andSpaceX isn’t all useful.
The companies basically have to learn andperfect each step in the manufacturing process
and, if one step isn’t working, no carsget made.
比如成本最低的特斯拉Model 3 采用的是钢而不是Model S和X的铝
For example, the Tesla Model 3, the low-costTesla, is built using steel instead of aluminum like the Model S and X.
With this change, the manufacturer is havingtroubles properly welding the vehicle bodies
together and so the entire production lineis slowed down massively.
But there’s something else unique about SpaceXand Tesla’s production lines—they’re in the US.
Now this probably seems counterintuitive—whywould you put the production lines of two
companies working to make the least expensiveproducts on the market in one of the most
expensive labor markets in the world?
Almost every US company has relocated theirproduction lines to cheaper labor markets
in Asia and Africa but Musk has always hadhis in the US.
Believe it or not, this isn’t a PR move.
It actually makes sense for the two companies.
Tesla and SpaceX’s production processesare constantly being tweaked and optimized
as the companies learn to make their products.
While China might be able to build Tesla carsat the same price by using cheaper human labor,
Tesla’s US factory is just miles away fromits headquarters in Palo Alto meaning that
这就意味着管理层 技术层以及生产员工都紧密协调 应变能力强
the executive, development, and productionstaff are all heavily integrated and can make changes fast.
SpaceX even takes this a step further.
It’s offices and manufacturing lines areall under one roof.
The Tesla factory in particular is also heavilyautomatized and the US excels in production
line automation with its abundance of highlyskilled workers, but just how much is Musk
dropping the price on his products?
The United Launch Alliance, which historicallyhas won most of the highly lucrative US government
launch contracts, is believed to charge morethan $400 million dollars all-in for a military
satellite launch while SpaceX charges about$80 million dollars.
差不多是发射联盟的1/5 不过 伊隆·马斯克想降低到1/10
So, SpaceX is already at a fifth of the price,but as mentioned, Elon Musk wants that to fall to a tenth.
Here’s the key for that—the fuel usedin the Falcon 9 rocket only costs about $200,000
dollars per launch—it’s practically anon-factor in the launch price.
The real cost is of the rockets themselves,so that’s why SpaceX is making them reusable.
The first stage of the rocket is now beingdesigned to land back on earth and be put
back into service with dozens more launches.
Once this system becomes reliable, it’sbelieved that the cost savings will drop the
launch price to $40 million dollars—a full10 times cheaper than United Launch Alliance’s military launch price.
SpaceX’s long-term goal is to get the launchprice down to about $10 million dollars per launch.
While the company has already made a significantimpact on the space industry, a launch price
as low as this would fundamentally changewhat’s possible in space.
Real space tourism would become feasible,commercial satellites would become downright
commonplace, and Space would become closerthan it’s ever been.
But SpaceX does have a bit of a problem—
peoplearen’t really buying more rocket launches even though prices are down.
It’s what’s known as a price inelasticmarket.
That’s the opposite of Tesla and the electricvehicle market where lower prices lead to
huge increases in sales.
The problem with the space launch market isthat it is not a consumer market—normal
people don’t buy rocket launches.
Governments buy rocket launches and they don’tcare about price nearly as much as people
since it’s not the decision makers’ money.
The US Air Force, for example, decides theyneed to launch a certain number of satellites
each year for the national security reasonsand they’ll pay whatever it takes.
But Elon Musk’s life goal is to get humanityto Mars—
that’s why SpaceX exists—and he needs money to do it.
Lots of money.
So, SpaceX is getting into the internet business.
The company is actively developing a satelliteconstellation that would provide high-speed
internet to anywhere on earth.
Thousands of small satellites would be putinto low earth orbit and then anyone worldwide
could hook into the network using an inexpensiveground receiver.
If SpaceX got just 50 million users out ofthe 7 billion in its proposed service area,
this business could bring in $30 billion dollarsa year.
Since SpaceX would be building and launchingthe satellites themselves, costs would be
dramatically lower than the competition’s.
The whole commercial aspect of SpaceX essentiallyexists
to fund Musk’s future space exploration projects
For that reason, SpaceX is not a public companylike Tesla.
Elon Musk does not want to make money withSpaceX, he wants to get to Mars.
He does not want to be beholden to shareholdersand profitability.
Musk has therefore publicly said that SpaceXwill not go public until the company achieves
regular flights to and from mars and thanksto the entrepreneur’s understanding of basic
economics, that might not be too far off.
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