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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The short list of what you can buy with bitcoin is about to get a tad longer, courtesy of Elon Musk.

Why it matters: Musk is going where other companies have failed — trying to transform bitcoin from a speculative investment to a form of payment. It hasn't taken off in the decade-plus that the digital currency has been around.

  • What's different about Musk: He's been tapping into cryptocurrency enthusiasts — many of whom are part of his fandom.

Catch up quick: Tesla now accepts bitcoin as a form of payment, Musk said in a a string of early-morning tweets.

  • Musk said bitcoin payments will be retained by the company as bitcoin, not converted back to dollars.
  • Tesla is also setting up its own "nodes," — which means it's contributing computing power to help validate transactions.

What they're saying: "This is quite possibly a gimmick, but it really could be Elon Musk pulling in more early adopters," Craig Irwin, an auto analyst at Roth Capital, tells Axios.

Between the lines: Bitcoin has been a better investment vehicle rather than an easy form of payment. One reason: volatility.

  • Buyer beware: Tesla warns (in all-caps) that if a customer makes a return, the refund in bitcoin "might be significantly less" than it was at the time of purchase.
  • Plus, a tax hit: "If the bitcoin that you use to buy a Tesla has gone up tremendously in value, you're going to owe quite a lot in capital gains tax," on top of what you already paid for the bitcoin, Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association, tells Axios.

The big picture: The overlap of bitcoin investors who will use it to buy a Tesla would be very small on a Venn diagram, says Sam Abuelsamid, an auto research analyst at Guidehouse Insights.

  • "Most of the people who are interested in buying a Tesla more than likely don't even know what bitcoin is," Abuelsamid says.

Remember: Musk and his company are a cultural phenomenon — but its product is still niche. Tesla sold 500,000 cars out of the 64 million vehicles sold worldwide.

  • Meanwhile, legacy automakers are biting at Tesla's heels as they foray deeper into electric vehicles.

The bottom line: Tesla said this was coming last month when the company announced it was putting $1.5 billion of its cash pile into bitcoin.

  • Musk has also been engaging (trolling?) the crypto crowd for weeks on Twitter in the form of memes.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

5 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. on Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest hours later, per AP.