Revolutionized the Auto Industry
Musk believes that humans must make the switch from a reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy or else we'll exhaust our energy supplies, and as he puts it, "plunge into the dark ages" [source: Leary]. Like many scientists, he warns about the dangers of rising carbon dioxide levels due to the combustion of fossil fuels and subsequent global warming.
And he put his money where his mouth is. He co-founded Tesla in 2003, largely to guffaws from car executives all over the world, and he is now the company's CEO. Musk's dream was to build affordable cars that were emissions-free.
The Tesla Roadster (2008) was the first electronic vehicle to use lithium-ion battery cells and to have a range greater than 200 miles (320 kilometers) per charge. This spurred big automakers to come out with EVs of their own, like the Chevy Volt. In 2015, Tesla launched the first semiautonomous car, a move many of the big automakers have emulated. Since then, Musk has said that Tesla models will have technology to be fully driverless, possibly by 2019 [source: Hawkins, Alvarez]. Tesla can also automatically update software in its cars without drivers having to make a trip to a dealership, something legacy automakers might find harder to do since they have a franchise system [source: Hawkins].
He delivered on affordability, too. Some models, like the Model 3, now start at around $40,000 [source: Felton]. The company turned its first profitable quarter in 2013, although the next one wouldn't happen until 2016 [source: Urbi].
However, Tesla has also run into problems with meeting production targets and logistical problems with distributing cars as they don't use dealerships. Some people have been waiting two years for a Model 3. Musk's admissions that he was working 120 hours a week to meet production — and taking Ambien to get a little sleep — caused controversy [source: Ohnsman].