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Elon Musk to Look Into Potential Tesla, SpaceX Investments in Indonesia


SpaceX’s Starship heavy rocket prepares for launch at the company’s Boca Chica launch station in South Texas on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX)

JAKARTA – American inventor and technology mogul Elon Musk has agreed to explore investment opportunities in the electric car battery and space launch station in Indonesia following a talk with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan over the telephone on Friday. 

Musk, the founder and chief executive officer of electric car company Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX, said over the telephone that he would send a team to Indonesia next month to look into details about the investment opportunities. 

The discussion between Musk, Jokowi, and Luhut followed up on Luhut’s visit to the United States last month. At that time, Luhut had to cancel a scheduled meeting with Musk as the latter contracted Covid-19. 

“The discussion touch base on the investment opportunities for the electric car company, Tesla, in Indonesia,” the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment said in a statement on Saturday. 

“The two parties discussed the electric car industry and the main component for electric batteries,” the ministry said.

Jokowi has been adamant about leveraging Indonesia’s nickel reserve — the largest in the world — to launch an integrated supply chain for electric car batteries and the electric car industry in the country. Nickel was the main component for making a high-performance lithium-ion battery. 

In a tweet last July, Musk said he saw nickel production as the biggest obstacle for a high volume battery production for electric cars. He also identified several countries that were on course to become key suppliers of the metal. 

“Nickel is the biggest challenge for high-volume, long-range batteries! Australia and Canada are doing pretty well. US nickel production is objectively very lame. Indonesia is great!” Elon tweeted.

Jokowi’s Electric Car Ambition

Jokowi was serious with electric car ambition, setting a target to have at least one in five cars to be an electric one by 2025. 

And, the plan has been taking shape in the past twelve months. China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), one of the world’s largest car battery manufacturers, is preparing to build a $5.1 billion battery plant in Indonesia. 

The state-owned mining holding company Indonesia Asahan Aluminium (Inalum), state utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara and state energy company Pertamina are working to establish Indonesia Battery Holding, a holding company that would involve in battery investment, production, and distribution across the country. 

Japan’s automotive giant Toyota had pledged a $2 billion investment to develop 10 types of electric vehicles in Indonesia to transform the Southeast Asian largest economy into a critical global hub for electric vehicle exports over the next five years. 

Besides Toyota, South Korea’s Hyundai Motor has also committed about $1.55 billion in investment for an electric car manufacturing plant. The company’s West Java plant will start production next year. 

Space Launch Stations

Apart from investment offers to Tesla, Jokowi also asked Musk to look into the possibility of setting up a space launch station in Indonesia.

Musk’s SpaceX reported a successful flight test for its Starship heavy rocket on Wednesday. The rocket managed to reach 12.5-kilometer altitude before decelerating to the Boca Chica launch station in South Texas and was destroyed upon landing. The company said it managed to collect all the flight data needed to develop further the rocket for carrying a human-crewed expedition to Mars by 2027. 

“President Joko Widodo invites [Musk] to look into Indonesia as a launching pad for SpaceX,” the ministry said. 

SpaceX has prior experience working with Indonesia. In 2018, the company launched Telkom Indonesia’s Merah Putih satellite into orbit, using its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

Indonesia has several space launch stations plan in the pipeline. The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (Lapan) announced last year that it moved forward to build a spaceport in Biak, Papua. Lapan and the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA) first worked on the Biak station plan in 2006 to develop it as a commercial launch site.

Biak sits almost exactly on the equator, which helped any rocket launched from the site to gain greater initial velocity, allowing it to carry heavier payloads.

Lapan also identified Morotai, an island 920 kilometers northwest of Biak, as an ideal spaceport location. The island has seven runways to support the spaceport logistics. Morotai is also sparsely populated and relatively far from other islands, so the risk of civilian death in space rocket crash incident is low. 



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