Elon Musk Versus China for the Future of Space and Energy

Many will say that a claim that Elon Musk and China are competing for the future of space and energy is excessive hype. I will review the current data as people may not be aware of where China and Elon Musk companies are already the top competitors in space and electric cars. I will provide links to some background of my past predictions to show that I have an excellent track record in predictions.

China companies and Elon Musk companies have been the primary places where heavy industry has been created from scratch in the 21st century.

Why Does Future Space and Energy Market Share Competition Matter?

If lithium batteries and electric cars displace oil and combustion engine cars then the battle for lithium battery market share will be like the geopolitical struggle of the US vs OPEC vs Russia of today.

Reusable rocket market share will be like today’s battle between Airbus and Boeing for commercial aviation and commercial air cargo.

It is already a fact that Elon Musk companies (Tesla and SpaceX) are already the main competitors for Space and Energy and they are either dominating or chasing after China depending upon which specific area in Space or Energy is being discussed. This competition will get more intense over the 2020s and into the 2030s.

If Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla were not around and giving the US leadership in Space and electric cars then China would dominate two critical industries for the future.

About 66% of the world solar panels are produced in China. Tesla is installing solar energy and has started to produce solar roofs where the solar is built as part of the roof tile.

China’s total EV and plug-in hybrid sales were 1.3 million in 2020. Tesla produced and sold just short of 500,000 EVs in 2020.

China has had a joint venture with Panasonic for making lithium batteries. China created the first lithium battery gigafactory. If Tesla is able to deliver on Battery Day plans then Tesla plans to produce 10 GWh/year of batteries in 2020, 110+ GWh/year of batteries in 2022 and scaling to 3000 GWh/year of batteries. China is starting 140+ lithium battery gigafactories by 2030. Total battery plans are for over 2000 GWh/year of lithium battery production by 2030 from China (Benchmark Minerals).

If Tesla meets or exceeds Battery Day 2030 goals then Tesla (and the USA) will have the dominant share of future lithium battery production. If Tesla broadly misses the Battery Day goals then China will maintain 70% share of the world lithium battery market. In 2020, China currently has 75% market share of the world lithium battery production while the US has 7%.

Tesla is the main US company looking to solve the battery raw material and supply chain issues.

Space Competition

In 2020, China had 34 space launches and SpaceX had 26 space launches. China has many military and government launches. SpaceX has over 60% of the commercial space launch market.

China has rocket startups trying to copy the first stage re-use of the SpaceX Falcon 9. Recently, China announced a super-heavy rocket (Long March 9) that looks like an attempt to copy the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship.

Russia and Europe rockets used to dominate space launch back in 2010. Both Russia and Europe are almost out of commercial launch because they are not competitive with China and SpaceX. If SpaceX did not exist then the US rocket program would be in a similar situation to Europe.

The old US space companies (United Launch) would still not have a new rocket and would be trying to re-use old Space Shuttle era technology. Blue Origin has just delayed the New Glenn rocket to 2022. Blue Origin started trying to launch rockets years before SpaceX. Blue Origin has not reached orbit with a large rocket. Blue Origin had to use a small rocket stage to get some cubesats to orbit off of its sub-orbital launcher.

Many in the space industry will talk up Blue Origin or United Launch Alliance as competitors for the future of Space. This makes no sense. Real competitors for the future of space would be successfully making new rocket designs and getting those rockets to orbit. SpaceX has the Falcon 9 family (many versions) and the Falcon Heavy and will soon have the Super Heavy Starship.

China Wants to Copy Tesla and SpaceX

China like Michael Corleone wants to keeps its friends close but its enemies (competitors) closer. China believed that Steve Jobs of Apple was a genius. China welcomed Apple and Foxconn into China. China never took over Apple’s factories or tried to hinder Apple from selling smartphones in China. China could get workers and executives who worked at Apple to take what they learned and help Hauwei and Xiaomi and other Chinese companies to get a massive chunk of the smartphone market. China wants the same from Tesla. China wants Tesla and workers at Tesla at the Shanghai factory to help other Chinese electric car and battery companies to get better.

China also imports about 70% of its oil and has a massive air pollution problem. The faster China can convert trucks, buses and cars to electric the sooner they will be able to reduce oil imports and fix air pollution. Fixing air pollution would boost the health of China’s people and economy. Air pollution in China reduces China’s GDP by over 7%.

Converting about 10 million heavy trucks to electric would remove 3 million barrels per day of oil imports. China only produces 3.5 million barrels of oil domestically. This conversion to electric would be like doubling China’s domestic oil production.

Reviewing Some Past Accurate Predictions

I have to review some accurate predictions I have made about China and Elon Musk and his companies. This review is to indicate that I was right in the past. It does not mean I will definitely be right in my current predictions of the future but I have a good track record.

I was accurate in predicting the 10X growth of China’s economy over 15 years and predicted Elon Musk becoming 10X wealthier over 4-8 years.

Many people (perhaps even most people) have been critical of the hundreds of articles that Nextbigfuture wrote about China over the past 15 years. Many people would see any article about China’s economic success as someone being a China fan. People would always bring up ghost cities. People will also dismiss articles about Elon Musk as being written by Elon Musk fanboys. I have written over 30,000 articles. The vast majority are not related to China and Elon Musk.

Among the predictions that I made in 2006 were two predictions on China’s economy.

China second largest economy in straight currency conversion measures   2013-2015
China largest economy in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms            2009-2012

China overtook Japan in 2010 in terms of being the second-largest economy in currency conversion measures. Japan’s economy was weaker than I expected. By 2008, I had realized and forecast that China would pass Japan in 2010.

The Penn World Tables is a primary source of Purchasing power parity statistics. Penn World reported that China passed the US to become the largest economy in PPP in 2012.

In 2017, Nextbigfuture predicted that Elon Musk would become the richest person in the world. Nextbigfuture predicted a net worth of $250 billion to $450 billion by 2025. Elon Musk will surpass that prediction but that prediction was made when Elon Musk was worth $20 billion.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, QZ, Nanotech-now, Brian Wang analysis
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com (Brian owns shares of Tesla and SpaceX)