Telsa and SpaceX chief Elon Musk speaks warmly of Russia’s ‘talent and energy’ in chat with Russian students, says he is open to Russian factory ‘at some point’
The Tesla and SpaceX chief executive answered questions for about 45 minutes at the event, which kicked off a Russian government effort to revive the Knowledge Society, a Soviet-era educational organisation.
Speaking at the invitation of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Musk covered topics ranging from his hiring practices to the future of human consciousness.
He said he was “close” to establishing a Tesla foothold in Russia, and would be open to building a factory there.
Tesla in Russia
“I think we’re close to establishing a Tesla presence in Russia… and more broadly also in Kazakhstan and neighbouring regions… and I think that would be great,” he said.
“Over time, we will look to have factories in other parts of the world, potentially Russia at some point,” Musk added.
Russian governors were quick to invite Musk to establish Tesla in their regions, with Aleksandr Brechalov, governor of the Udmurt Republic in remote central Russia, writing on Twitter, “Welcome to Udmurtia! The site is ready for you!”
Russia is a major oil-producing nation which has a minimal electric vehicle market, with fewer than 5,300 and 700 new electric vehicles purchased in the country in 2020, according to industry researcher Autostat.
However, Tesla’s website indicates the company has plans to build a handful of Supercharger stations in Russia, with five spaced out between Moscow and St. Petersburg, although their opening dates have yet to be confirmed.
The website also lists two active charging stations in Kazakhstan, one in its capital Nur-Sultan, near the Ritz-Carlton Astana, and the other in the major southern city of Almaty, near the border with Krgyzstan.
‘Talent and energy’
Musk praised pioneering Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Sergei Korolev, who founded the Soviet space programme.
Musk called for more dialogue between the US and Russian governments, and praised the “talent and energy” of Russia.
“Hopefully that energy continues into the future, and I would just like to strongly encourage people to strive to make the future better than the past and to be optimistic about the future,” Musk said.
SpaceX competes directly with Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, which ferried US astronauts into orbit for nine years until SpaceX broke its monopoly in May of 2020, when it carried two NASA passengers to the International Space Station, the first private company to do so.
The two organisations also compete for space tourists.
Earlier this year Musk made headlines for inviting Russian president Vladimir Putin to chat with him on social media app Clubhouse.
Peskov said Russia is not actively preparing a meeting between Putin and Musk but he hoped “that in time it’ll probably happen at some point”, Interfax reported.