This wasn’t so much predicted as it was projected.
As of this morning, Elon Musk is the richest man in the world — for the second time.
On January 7, 2021, the mainstream media announced that Musk had eclipsed Jeff Bezos for the No. 1 spot, with a total net worth of $185 billion.
He lost that spot three days later when a correction in Tesla’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) stock dropped share value by 13%, but that was only momentary, and it was back into the $850s by the end of Wednesday’s trading.
Realistically, however, it’s hard to know exactly how much the world’s richest man is truly worth.
Tesla’s market capitalization now stands at a whopping $809 billion — almost four times bigger than the next biggest automaker, Toyota Motor Corporation (NYSE: TM).
As of December 15, Musk’s Tesla position totaled 193.3 million shares. Today, that position is valued at $156.3 billion.
Half a Billion Per Day
That figure most likely does not include the entirety of the massive bonus package that the board of directors approved back in 2018. The reason I say most likely is that the speed of Tesla’s recent growth has made it impossible to determine how many (if any) of Musk’s newly vested options have been exercised.
What we do know is that once fully vested, this bonus would put another 12% of Tesla’s total shares outstanding into Musk’s personal account.
As of today, that 12% would be worth $97 billion.
And let’s not forget his 54% share of SpaceX, which is still privately held but estimated to be worth around $50 billion.
All of that is mind-bending in and of itself, but the real shock comes when you realize that Elon started 2020 out with less than $30 billion, barely enough to break into the world’s wealthiest top 50.
So while the rest of the world spent 2020 getting intimately acquainted with COVID-19, Musk’s average daily gains for the year, even at the very low end of the estimate, came out to just over $420 million.
Barring a meltdown at Tesla, Elon Musk is probably going to be the richest man in the world, by a strong margin, for years to come — maybe even for the rest of his life.
Does that make his opinion worth listening to?
Apparently, yes. One two-word tweet last week, intended as a reference to Signal, the encrypted messaging service and a direct rival of Facebook’s WhatsApp, sent a penny stock with a similar name (OTC: SIGL) up more than 10-fold.
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Equally impressive, the tweet moved 25 million new users to join the Signal app in the space of just three days.
And it is because of this precise effect on culture and popular opinion that it’s so unfortunate just how wrong Musk can occasionally be.
One prime example of this is his war with hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Derided as “fool sells” and “staggeringly dumb” by the Tesla CEO, hydrogen fuel cells are, nevertheless, one of the clear front-runners as a successor to internal combustion.
The major difference between Musk’s favored lithium-ion method of energy storage is that fuel cells create electricity internally — with the only external requirement being the hydrogen itself.
Because hydrogen requires a substantial amount of energy to distill, compress, and transport to wherever it’s doled out, it is currently far less efficient than simply charging a battery from the power grid or, better yet, from your own solar panel array.
And that’s the main point of Musk’s refusal to accept fuel cells as a viable alternative to lithium-ion batteries.
No Such Thing as a Clean Tesla
What he fails to consider is that his batteries are highly toxic, both to produce and, at the end of their life cycle, to dispose of.
Charging those batteries, if it’s done as it is the vast majority of the time (off the power grid) also doesn’t eliminate the carbon problem. It just passes the buck to whatever power source supplied the charge. In North America, more often than not, that power source is burning fossil fuel.
Hydrogen fuel cells, though not there yet, can conceivably, one day, become totally energy-independent by distilling and packaging the hydrogen internally.
The potential is incredible, and the technology is well proven— so much so that it was the preferred method of power generation for the Apollo moon missions more than 50 years ago.
Still, Elon refuses to admit the potential. Maybe this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, however.
Remember, the bulk of his fortune is tied up in Tesla, a company that doesn’t just dominate the lithium-ion battery market, but also lives off of it. When those Gigafactories you hear so much about in the news media were first being conceived, it wasn’t for automobile production; it was for battery production.
That was how much Elon staked his future on the lithium-ion market.
Up until now, he’s been fabulously right to do so… but nothing lasts forever.
Don’t Fall for the Bias
Jimmy Mengel, my colleague and fellow editor here at Angel, isn’t worth $185 billion.
He’s not even worth $537 million, the value of Elon’s little brother Kimbal’s Tesla stock holdings.
But that doesn’t make his opinions on the subject any less relevant.
He’s spent much of the last year studying hydrogen fuel cell technology, the market, and the competition, and what he’s learned may end up costing Musk big time.
Jimmy’s seen and tested the technology firsthand, so it’s worth your while to view his video presentation on the topic.
It may change the way you think about the electric vehicle market forever.
Fortune favors the bold,
His flagship service, Microcap Insider, provides market-beating insights into some of the fastest moving, highest profit-potential companies available for public trading on the U.S. and Canadian exchanges. With more than 5 years of track record to back it up, Microcap Insider is the choice for the growth-minded investor. Alex contributes his thoughts and insights regularly to Energy and Capital. To learn more about Alex, click here.