A year after his first visit as prime minister, Narendra Modi is going back to the United States. And this time he's off to the west coast, to visit Silicon Valley, where he will be speaking at Stanford University, address a crowd in San Jose and, if plans fall into place, visit the headquarters of Tesla.
Run by South African-born Elon Musk – the inspiration for Iron Man's Tony Stark – Tesla has been touted as one of the most disruptive firms in a land where innovation is king. Tesla's primary efforts come in finding ways to turn renewable energy into consumer products. The company builds batteries for automakers and has a line of electric cars of its own, in which many see the future of automobiles.
Its latest inventions announced earlier this year, the Powerwall, essentially a large battery pack, makes storing electricity much easier and more convenient: making solar panels potentially much more effective and also offering a greener backup solution to generators.
Modi has already endorsed the effort of bringing solar energy in the country with a target of producing 100,000 MW by 2022. Tesla's experience with lithium-ion charged batteries could help Modi in implementing off-grid solar power systems around the villages and cities of India. Until now, India has majorly focused on larger solar plants which face infrastructural and regulatory challenges during implementation.
Modi isn't slated to leave California, though, but if he did pop out to Nevada, he might have had a chance to see Tesla's massive "gigafactory." The facility, expected to cost about $5 billion is aimed at achieving enough scale with battery production that it will bring down the cost of the Powerwall product by up to 30%. Musk claims to have received $800 million worth of orders for the Powerwall and other battery products soon after launch, meaning even the gigafactory will not be enough to meet demand.
Inside its Fremont, California factory, meanwhile, Modi could have a chance to look at the specialist robot assembly line built by Tesla including 10 of the largest robots in the world and up to 160 specialist robots which put together the company's cars, something the prime minister wouldn't mind seeing built back home as part of his Make in India effort.