Tesla is still losing money from selling electric cars. Elon Musk owes a solid profit for 2020 to another source of income. 2020 was an excellent year for Elon Musk and Tesla. Thanks to a sevenfold increase in market value, the electric car manufacturer rose to become the most valuable car company in the world. Suddenly it is even worth more on the stock exchange than the next largest competitors put together. And Elon Musk, who still owns a big piece of his company, became the richest person in the world for the first time in January.

For the first time in the company's history, Tesla managed to generate profits for an entire year in 2020. In 2019, the loss was $862 million, but for 2020 there is a huge profit of $721 million.

However: A closer look at the figures published last week shows that Tesla is still making losses with actual sales of electric cars - around $500,000 in 2020. Tesla owes a profit of millions to another source of income: the sale of CO2 certificates. In 2020, carbon certificates brought in $1.6 billion, without this revenue the numbers would still be below red.

CO2 certificates are a regulatory tool that aims to support and promote the industry to sell more climate-friendly cars. In eleven US states, as well as in the EU, car manufacturers who do not sell green cars have to purchase these certificates from competitors who exceed their target. Tesla earns from this mechanism, the money comes in the USA mainly from General Motors and Fiat-Chrysler.

Since Tesla does not produce any combustion cars at all, the CO2 certificate business has been a lucrative source of money. According to CNN, the Tesla company has earned a total of $3.3 billion from the CO2 certificates in the past five years. Last year's $1.6 billion profit from CO2 certificates is a new record

The fact that the Tesla profit does not come from the actual business of selling electric cars darkens the success story. For precisely this reason, critics currently consider Tesla stock to be overvalued. They make money selling carbon certificates but in time those certificates will go away.

Tesla gratefully takes the additional income with it as long as it continues and in the meantime is working hard on expanding production in order to finally generate real operating profits.

The signs are not bad at all. The Tesla Gigafactory in Brandenburg, Germany should go into operation in just a few months. Another plant in Austin, Texas, is also due to be completed in 2021. 

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