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Tesla's Elon Musk and his big ideas: A brief history

Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk on Thursday detailed his vision for an energy storage system that would change “the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world.”

Musk’s plunge into the business of batteries for home and commercial use is the latest in a series of grandiose plans — often ones that are eligible for government contracts and subsidies and which he pitches as having a higher purpose.

Here are highlights of Musk's big ideas:

PayPal: Where Musk made his fortune

As cofounder of the electronic payment system PayPal Inc., Musk made his fortune when he sold the company to EBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

Musk originally started X.com Corp., an online company he described at the time as Western Union for the World Wide Web where users could transfer cash electronically, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The company merged with PayPal in 2000.

“People can get cash instantly,” Musk told the Mercury News in 2000. “Only through Internet finance can something like this be done.”

SpaceX: Because he wants to change the world

When Musk was bankrolling the upstart SpaceX in 2003, he told the Los Angeles Times: "I like to be involved in things that change the world."

Musk’s firm now has contracts with NASA to launch astronauts into space and deliver goods to the International Space Station. 

The Hawthorne rocket and spacecraft maker was, its website boasts, founded in 2002 “to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Specifically, Mars.

Tesla Motors: Accelerating transition

Musk’s California-based electric car maker has a similarly lofty mission statement: “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transport.”

The company was founded in 2003 and launched the Tesla Roadster five years later. In 2012, the company released the Model S, the world’s first all-electric luxury sedan.

It’s through Tesla that Musk is launching his battery operation to allow businesses and homes to store energy.

SolarCity: An idea from Burning Man

Musk is chairman of the San Mateo, Calif.-based solar installation company created by his cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive in 2006.

Lyndon Rive said the idea for the company came from a 2004 trip he and Musk took to the Burning Man festival.

"My brother and I are extremely passionate about the environment and the challenges that we face," Rive told The Times in 2013. "What business would he [Musk] recommend that I get into? His idea was that I should get into solar."

Hyperloop: Not as crackpot as it sounds

In 2013, Musk unveiled a design for the Hyperloop, a $6-billion high-speed transit system powered by solar energy. The imaginative system would use pressurized tubes to transport freight and passengers at speeds of 750 mph, racing from Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour.

A physicist said at the time of the announcement: "Normally I would think this idea is borderline crackpot, but this guy has a track record."

One company working on the project, Hyperloop Technologies Inc., has leased industrial space in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles.

The Hyperloop proposed by billionaire Elon Musk would work somewhat like a pneumatic delivery system, shooting passengers in capsules through a tube. (Associated Press)

Tesla Energy: Store your energy here

On Thursday night, Musk introduced his newest venture: a line of inexpensive residential and commercial energy storage systems.

The first product, called the Tesla Powerwall, was revealed at Tesla Motors Inc.'s design studio in Hawthorne at a rock concert-esque gala. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is about the size and thickness of a refrigerator door.

“We are talking about trying to change the fundamental energy infrastructure of the world," Musk said at the event.

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