Odyssey Of Greatness

Elon Musk is the driving force behind South Australia’s giant storage battery project, but his to-do list includes putting a human on Mars, roads filled with electric vehicles that drive themselves and developing the capacity for humans to “plug themselves in” to computers.

Mr Musk, 46, was born in South Africa, went to school there, then completed university in Canada and the United States.

He spoke with scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a podcast last year about ways he wanted to have a big impact on humanity — citing the internet, sustainable energy and space exploration among his areas of focus.

Others he spoke of were artificial intelligence and exploration of human genetics.

The start-ups sector holds Mr Musk in high regard.

Back when he was 24, he got only days into PhD studies at Stanford University when he decided to leave and start the first of what became a series of multi-million-dollar business ventures.

With his brother, he started Zip2 with just $2,000, a company that helped others post content such as maps and directory listings.

PayPal among business successes

Four years later that company was sold for more than $300 million and Mr Musk pocketed about $22 million as his share.

The young businessman then rolled half the money into a company that ultimately became PayPal.

It was later acquired by eBay for more than $1.5 billion.

Mars close up. Photo: SpaceX is working on ambitious hopes including human travel to Mars. (Reuters)

Aged 31, Mr Musk started turning his attention to space exploration hopes, founding the company SpaceX, and also joined electric car company Tesla, as he pondered the way forward for vehicle transport.

Tesla sells electric cars that run on lithium ion batteries. In 2016, it sold more than 82,000 cars but needed to work out how it could achieve an aim of many as 10,000 new cars per week by 2018, the hurdle being enough lithium ion batteries.

Mr Musk turned his ambitions to that area, and started building the Gigafactory 1 last year in Nevada in the United States.

It is more than half completed now and, once operational, is being tipped to have the largest footprint of any building in the world.

Mr Musk has said the planet would need just 100 lithium ion factories of this size to be able to meet the Earth’s total energy requirements.

 

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