DETROIT Jan 28 Elon Musk has long considered
Tesla Motors Inc the bold, nimble answer to the auto
industry's cautious culture. Now the electric car maker's top
executive has extended his help to another industrial giant:
In a Jan. 26 message on Twitter, Musk said he was in talks
with the chief engineer of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner plane, which
regulators have grounded indefinitely after a string of
malfunctions ranging from fuel leaks to battery meltdowns.
"Desire to help Boeing is real & am corresponding w 787
chief engineer," Musk wrote on the social media website.
Musk, who is the CEO of space transport company SpaceX, and
Tesla, which aims to earn its first-ever quarterly profit later
this year, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Boeing declined to comment or confirm if such discussions were
Boeing's chief 787 engineer, Mike Sinnett, has recently made
presentations about the plane and its battery technology to
reporters and industry leaders.
Musk's post came a week after his first dispatch to Boeing
on Jan. 18: "Maybe already under control, but Tesla & SpaceX are
happy to help with the 787 lithium ion batteries."
U.S. and Japanese authorities are investigating a fire and a
smoke incident with lithium-ion batteries on two separate
Dreamliners in recent weeks. The 50 Dreamliners in service
cannot be flown until the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
is satisfied that the problem with the batteries has been fixed.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is still
investigating what caused the first battery to catch fire.
Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in phones and hybrid
cars because they are lighter and more powerful than traditional
batteries. But if managed improperly, lithium-ion batteries can
explode or catch fire, and some pose a greater risk than others
depending on their chemical make-up.
The 787 is the first passenger jet to use lithium-ion
batteries for back-up and auxiliary power. Tesla began using
lithium-ion batteries in its Roadster, a two-door sports car
that Tesla said could go from 0 to 60 miles (100 km) per hour in
about 4 seconds.
In its Dreamliner, Boeing adopted a lithium cobalt oxide
chemistry similar to that used in the Roadster, which Tesla
produced from 2008 until last year.
Musk, a serial entrepreneur who gained fame after selling
his Internet payment company PayPal to eBay Inc in
2002, has been quick to criticize the cultures of major car
makers like General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.
In a magazine interview with Esquire late last year, Musk
was similarly critical of Boeing. He was quoted as saying, "You
know the joke about Boeing: It puts the zero in being."
Musk later took pains to dismiss the story, written by
reporter Tom Junod. "Junod's Esquire article had high fiction
content," Musk wrote his Jan. 26 tweet.
Junod said Musk's dig at Boeing was on tape and his story
was "more extensively reported than any story on Elon that