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Elon Musk says Tesla won't be getting involved with cryptocurrency

CNBC logo CNBC 20/02/2019 Kate Rooney
Elon Musk holding a sign: Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Shanghai's Mayor Ying Yong attend the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019.© Provided by CNBC LLC Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Shanghai's Mayor Ying Yong attend the Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory groundbreaking ceremony in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019.

Despite tweeting about bitcoin, Elon Musk says his electric car company is steering clear of cryptocurrencies.

The world's first and largest digital currency is "interesting," and could be a valuable way to transfer money, Musk said in a podcast released Tuesday. But not for Tesla.

“ Bitcoin’s structure is brilliant but I don’t think it would be a good use of Tesla’s resources to get involved in crypto,” Musk told Cathie Wood of ARK Invest, which has holdings in the electric car company.

14 February 2019, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: The logo of the vehicle manufacturer Tesla can be seen on a rim of a Tesla Model 3 in a Tesla Service Center in Frankfurt. Photo: Silas Stein/dpa (Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images)© Getty 14 February 2019, Hessen, Frankfurt/Main: The logo of the vehicle manufacturer Tesla can be seen on a rim of a Tesla Model 3 in a Tesla Service Center in Frankfurt. Photo: Silas Stein/dpa (Photo by Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Tesla founder tweeted about bitcoin in October 2018, sparking speculation by bitcoin fans on social media that it was more than just a joke. Musk assured Wood that the comment was tongue in cheek, and said his account got temporarily suspended because "there's some automatic rule about selling bitcoin."

"I was just joking," Musk said.

Bitcoin gained mainstream notoriety and an enthusiastic group of investors at the end of 2017 as it soared to almost $20,000. The price has dropped more than 80 percent since, and was trading near $3,900 on Tuesday, according to data from CoinDesk.

BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 09: Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, not shown, at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound on January 9, 2018 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein - Pool/Getty Images)© Getty BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 09: Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, not shown, at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound on January 9, 2018 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein - Pool/Getty Images) Musk highlighted bitcoin's ability to bypass currency controls and replace paper versions. But he also pointed to flaws, including the energy involved with "mining." To create new bitcoin, people use high-powered computers to solve a complex math problem. The winner receives one bitcoin.

"Paper money is going away and crypto is a much better value for a transfer of value than pieces of paper but it has its pros and cons," Musk said. "It's very energy intensive to create bitcoin at this point."

The bulk of Musk's conversation with Wood and ARK Invest analyst Tasha Keeney centered around Tesla's future in automation and electric vehicles. Musk said he expects the company will have the technology needed to essentially operate vehicles without drivers by the end of the year.

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