AUSTIN, Tex.—Speaking to a packed ballroom at the Austin Hilton, Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk outlined Tesla Motors’ plans to reintroduce legislation during the 2015 Texas legislative session to allow the electric car manufacturer to sell direct to consumers. Musk’s trademark off-the-cuff style seemed to sit well with the audience, which applauded several times when Musk talked about how he believes allowing consumers to buy direct from Tesla was the right thing to do.
The session was topical but ultimately a reiteration of things Musk has discussed before—Texas’ biennial legislative session means that Musk was restating a lot of the things he’d said about Texas throughout 2014. However, the almost Steve Jobs-ian “one more thing” announcement that Musk chose to tack onto the end of the keynote seemed to garner the most attention: Musk plans to build a Hyperloop test track, approximately five miles long, and he plans to do it “soon.”
Musk originally put forward the idea of the Hyperloop in 2013, presenting a 56-page document that showed aluminum pods being shuttled between San Francisco and Los Angeles at 760 mph, through low-pressure tubes with magnets that are fed an electric current. The Hyperloop would be solar powered as well, Musk specified, and cost only $6 billion to build (which is a theoretical pittance compared to the projected cost of California’s plodding High Speed Rail project). Still, after announcing the idea, Musk told reporters in 2013 that he had no time to execute the plan and would be open-sourcing it so other researchers might take it up.
Appropriate to the venue, Musk also said that Texas was “the leading candidate” for the location of the test track. The plan with the track, at least for now, would be to fund it privately, entirely with money from Musk’s ventures (though which corporate entity would provide the funding wasn’t fully explained). Once constructed, the test track would be both a proving ground for the Hyperloop technology and also an open facility where universities and other research institutions could experiment with and iterate on the Hyperloop prototype technology.
Coming on the heels of a somewhat strained admission earlier in the keynote that Musk wouldn’t have chosen Texas for his SpaceX launch facility if not for the tax benefits provided by the state, the idea of Texas being the leading location candidate for the facility is a bit surprising, especially considering the state’s infamously hostile attitude toward Tesla Motors’ direct car sales. However, assuming Musk is successful in the 2015 legislature, Texas’ feelings toward Tesla might be about to change—especially with a new Hyperloop facility potentially on the way.