Climate change fears intensify
Electric vehicles produce fewer greenhouse gases than those with combustible engines, particularly when they're charged with electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar. Therefore, if more people become concerned about the effects of global warming, demand for electric vehicles could skyrocket in the years ahead. That would be a boon for Tesla.
Far from simply an opportunist, CEO Elon Musk is an environmental at heart. In the "Master Plan" that he wrote back in 2006, Musk said:
The overarching purpose of Tesla Motors (and the reason I am funding the company) is to help expedite the move from a mine-and-burn hydrocarbon economy toward a solar electric economy, which I believe to be the primary, but not exclusive, sustainable solution.
Ten years later, Musk again stressed the urgency of Tesla's environmentally focused mission in an update to the company's master plan:
By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.
As more people begin to adopt this mindset, sales of Tesla's electronic vehicles and sustainable energy solutions are likely to grow exponentially. Moreover, the recent devastation wrought by climate-related events such as Hurricane Harvey could help to bring this about faster than many investors currently expect.
Something that can drive Tesla's stock price up even more rapidly is the sheer number of people betting against it. In fact, 28 million of Tesla's shares are currently sold short, representing more than a quarter of its float.
Thus, if Tesla announces a positive development that leads to a sharp spike in its stock price, many of these bears will scramble to close their short positions in order to stem their losses. The resulting onslaught of buying could then turbocharge the pop in Tesla's share price. That's because in order to "cover" a short position, an investor must buy back the shares he or she borrowed. So, the more people short Tesla's shares, the more latent demand it potentially creates for Tesla's stock should the company exceed the market's expectations.
Less dilution means shareholders get a bigger piece of the pie
Still, I should note that these bears have some legitimate reasons for shorting Tesla. One of the most common is skepticism regarding Tesla's ability to raise the massive sums of capital required to fund its aggressive growth plans. Yet the situation may not be as dire as many bears currently believe.
On multiple occasions, Tesla has successfully converted some of its seemingly high-priced shares into cold hard cash via secondary offerings. And in August, the company was able to issue $1.8 billion in debt to further fund its operations. Notably, this debt offering did not include convertible notes. That's important because it counters another major bear argument: the potential shareholder dilution that Tesla's capital raises could bring about. If, going forward, Tesla is able to fund the majority of its cash needs with non-dilutive debt financing, then shareholders will enjoy more of the rewards should Tesla ultimately fulfill its vast growth potential.