What Elon Musk’s Unicorn Artwork Tells Us About the Future of Electric Cars

Has the brilliant inventor discovered a mystical new power source?

Elon Musk's new drawings. Via @elonmusk on Twitter.

Multibillionaire inventor Elon Musk, known for developing the Tesla electric car and for envisioning a new age of consumer space travel, is a modern-day Renaissance man—and now, true to form, it appears he’s started making art too. And his drawings may provide insights into his vision for the future of eco-sensitive transport. It involves unicorns.

A tweet that the entrepreneur posted on Wednesday features two of his drawings, created on a new feature that’s hidden in the software update for the electric car: if you double-tap on the ‘T’ in Tesla’s logo, it transforms the driver’s touchscreen into a sketchpad. According to Fortune, users can publish their drawings straight from the sketchpad, after being asked, “Are you sure you want Tesla to critique your artistic masterpiece?”


In that spirit, Musk published two drawings, one being a colorful childlike sketch of a smiling unicorn—accompanied by several smiley faces and a rainbow—whose flatulence appears to power an automobile. The other, more somber drawing is a line sketch of the Mona Lisa, her mysterious smile replaced with a distinctly concerned expression. (Perhaps it has something to do with the flatulent unicorn.)

The new drawings came to light in the same week that Musk’s company, SpaceX, made history by sending a commercial satellite into space with a previously used rocket, which could lower the cost of space travel.

<i>The Unicorn in Captivity</i> (1495–1505), from the Unicorn Tapestries, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Unicorn in Captivity (1495–1505), from the Unicorn Tapestries, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Viewed from an art-historical perspective, Musk’s drawings take their position in a lineage of representations of the mythical beast. Perhaps the best known is a set of tapestries in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which present a considerably dimmer picture of the unicorn’s fortunes, as it is hunted and imprisoned. No electric cars there!

While the unicorn drawing seems to hint at some fantastical new power source for the electric car, a previous tweet suggests that Musk sees electricity itself in the same mystical category, as Gizmodo points out. Photos of two sides of a coffee mug reveal the same unicorn drawing and, on the other side, a text that reads: “Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic.”

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