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Elon Musk talks Tesla IPO, funding

Chairman says electric-car maker will raise series E round of financing to bring itself to profitability, begin production of White Star luxury sedan by 2010.

Elon Musk, chairman of Tesla Motors Stefanie Olsen/CNET

Corrected, Sunday 9:30 a.m. This blog incorrectly described Musk's relationship with the company. He is chairman of Tesla Motors.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Elon Musk, the chairman and major funder of Tesla Motors, said here Saturday that he plans to take his electric sports car company public by the end of 2008.

Before the IPO, however, Musk said he will raise a series E round of financing to bring the company to profitability and begin production on Tesla's luxury electric sedan, codenamed White Star, by 2010. The goals will be reached by selling a roughly 10 percent stake in the company in the series E round, and through a Department of Energy loan of between $100 million and $200 million, Musk said.

A future IPO would raise on the order of $100 million, he said.

Musk, who was speaking here at the TieCon conference ("Tie" is short for "The Indus Entrepreneur"), also said that he's considering how the company might allow customers of the $100,000-plus Tesla Roadster to invest before the IPO, similar to the auction-style offering that delivered Google to the public markets.

Tesla prototypes
Meet Tesla's first two prototypes, and click on the image to see more photos. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

"We are trying to figure out if there's a way for Tesla customers to invest in that (series E) round...but we want to make sure we don't step on any legal landmines," said the 36-year-old Musk, dressed in his characteristic T-shirt (Solar City), jeans and cowboy boots.

Musk was here to give a keynote at the two-day conference, which drew as many as 4,000 attendees. During his interview on stage with Silicon Valley author Mike Malone, he talked about his three long-time passions: the Internet, renewable energy, and space exploration.

During the dot-com heyday, Musk of course founded two Internet companies--the most notable of which, PayPal, sold to eBay for $1.8 billion. Now, he owns two companies related to renewable energy, Solar City and Tesla Motors. And in space exploration, Musk runs SpaceX, a private rocketry company that has secured a contract with NASA to replace the space shuttle after 2010 in servicing the International Space Station.

Clearly a pioneer in these fields, Musk has bold predictions for these markets. One is that he will put a man on Mars by 2030. Though he admitted that might not come true by then.

He was more definitive about the other goals.

"Thirty years from now the majority of new cars will be pure electric, not hybrid," Musk said. On renewable energy: "We will derive more energy from solar than anything else in the United States."