Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has again set tongues wagging, this time with his declaration that his newly launched integrated solar roof tiles could actually cost less to install than a regular roof – making the renewable electricity they produce “just a bonus”.
The claims, which are already being carefully dissected by various media pundits, were made by Musk last Thursday, after Tesla and SolarCity shareholders voted in favour of a $2 billion deal to merge the two companies.
“It’s looking quite promising that a solar roof will actually cost less than a normal roof before you even take the value of electricity into account,” he said.
“So the basic proposition would be, ‘Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, last twice as long, cost less and by the way generates electricity?’ Why would you get anything else?”
As we reported last month, Musk unveiled four different types of surprisingly stylish looking solar shingle options at a much-hyped LA launch event in October.
At the time, the cost of the shingles was unknown – and their release was somewhat overshadowed by the unveiling of Tesla’s second generation Powerwall home battery storage units, at twice the capacity and half the cost per kilowatt-hour.
But the shareholder approval of the Tesla-Solar City merger put Musk’s solar roof right back in the picture and gave him the impetus to make his next big announcement.
According to Bloomberg, it was just minutes after the deal was approved that Musk told the crowd that he had just been advised by his engineering team that the company’s solar roof would actually cost less to manufacture and install than a traditional roof – even before savings from the power bill. “Electricity,” he said, “is just a bonus.”
Of course, as Bloomberg and many others have noted, the high-end terracotta and slate tiles that Tesla’s solar shingles have been designed to look like are among the most expensive roofing materials on the market, so this must be taken into consideration against Musk’s rather sensational claim.
And as Gizmodo noted, how this cost compares to the average cheap Australian corrugated iron roof remains to be seen.
But then Musk has noted that his tempered-glass roof tiles, engineered in Tesla’s new automotive and solar glass division, will weigh as little as a fifth of current products and are considerably easier to ship – being more robust.
Thus, as Bloomberg reports, much of the cost savings Musk is anticipating will come from shipping the materials.
As for the “bonus” electricity generation component of the tiles, Tesla will produce the solar cells for the roof with Panasonic at its manufacturing facility in Buffalo, New York. And at a November conference call, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said the companies were aiming for 40 cents a Watt, which puts it in line with the competition.