Musk admits Tesla made “significant mistakes” with Solar Roof rollout


Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk has conceded that his company made “some significant mistakes” in the rollout of its integrated glass Solar Roof, after reports from customers that the cost of the product had, in some cases, more than doubled from originally quoted prices.

In an investor call following Tesla’s quarterly earnings report, Musk said that production of the all-in-one Solar Roof was going “fine” – albeit with levels of demand still “significantly in excess” of what the company was producing. But delivery was “choked at the installation point.”

“We did find that we basically made some significant mistakes in assessing the difficulty of certain roofs,” Musk said in response to a question around the pricing issue.

“But the complexity of roofs varies dramatically,” he added. “Some roofs can be literally two or three times easier than other roofs. So, you just can’t have a one size fits all situation.

“If a roof has a lot of protuberances or … if the core structure of the roof is rotted out or is not strong enough to hold the Solar Roof, then the cost can be… double, sometimes three times what … our initial costs were.

“So in those cases, what we have to do is to refund customers their deposit. And what we cannot do is go and just lose a massive amount of money. But we’ve just got to provide a refund of the deposit,” Musk said.

This more or less gels with the company line that was emailed to customers by Tesla after their quotes were increased, as One Step reported here. And it suggests that there is a long way to go before we might see whole neighbourhoods of homes topped with Tesla’s glittering glass-tiled solar roofs. Particularly in Australia.

But Musk’s vision of every house being a solar generator is not diminished. He rounded out his answer to the Solar Roofs question by circling back to the company’s newly announced (or tweeted) plan that it will no longer sell any residential solar products – be they solar panels or solar glass tiles – without one or more Powerwall batteries included.

“What is most important about the Solar Roof situation, which I tweeted about this past week, is that we’re shifting the whole… solar plus battery situation,” Musk said during the investor call.

“We will not sell a house solar without a Powerwall; that’s all. It can either be a solar retrofit with conventional panels put on a roof, or it can be the Tesla solar glass roof. But in all cases, it will have the Powerwall 2.”

Musk went on to say that this change was expected to make Solar Roof installations much easier, making every house look the same “electrically” and ensuring that installers did not require “exceptional ability” to rewire the main control panel.

“So, this is extremely important for scalability,” he said. “It’s the only way to do it. And this also means that with every solar power installation, that the house … will be its own utility. And so even if all the lights go out in the neighbourhood, you will still have power. So that that gives people energy security.

“And we can also in work with utilities and use the Powerwalls to stabilise the overall grid. …With a whole bunch of Powerwalls in houses… if the grid needs more power, we can actually …release power onto the grid to take care of peak power [events].

“So, effectively, the Powerwalls can operate as a giant distributed utility. This is profound. I’m not sure how many people actually understand this. This is really profound and necessary,” Musk said.

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