2019 Tech Predictions: Tesla Solar Roof Ships in Two More Designs

Elon Musk has a big plan up his sleeve.

Tesla’s solar roof is glowing, and it could hit a new stride in 2018. While the roof for Elon Musk’s house of the future has shipped in small quantities, the future looks bright for its coming year. Inverse predicts that the company will make good on its previous promise and found out the range of solar roof styles with two more styles.

The roof started shipping earlier this year, and reviews from first adopters have been positive. Amanda Tobler told Inverse in April that “it has definitely been a worthy endeavor,” adding that “if you have the finances to be able to get on the list and do it sooner rather than not, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”

We’re reporting on 19 predictions for 2019. This is #16.

The tiles are designed to look like a normal roof, hiding their solar-collecting capabilities. The material itself is comprised of tempered glass three times stronger than slate or asphalt, with an “infinity” warranty, while the power portion is covered for 30 years. But while textured and smooth styles have started shipping, Tuscan and slate are yet to appear.

Fixing the Roof While the Sun is Shining

Tesla started taking pre-orders for the first two styles in May 2017, with plans to ship later that year. The Tuscan and slate styles were set to begin accepting pre-orders in November 2017 and start deliveries in 2018. Tesla missed these deadlines, but in the intervening period its financial situation has changed considerably.

“In general, their solar shingles are an interesting product but I don’t see why they will sweat to release them as this is a niche market with little to no competition,” Roberto Rodriguez Labastida, senior research analyst for Navigant, tells Inverse, noting that most sales have been to investors and insiders. “On the other hand, their solar business (the old SolarCity) became profitable last quarter.”

Labastida notes that Tesla’s solar business reported both profit and growth in the third quarter of 2018 as part of the company’s third-ever profitable quarter overall. Profitability was also achieved by competitors Sunrun and Vivint Solar. This, Labastida explains, is “perhaps the most important milestone that residential solar providers have achieved so far,” as “it gives them freedom to choose their future strategy instead of relying on the will of investors.”

This is expected to lead to a big boost in production. During the third quarter earnings call, Musk said that “we also start getting into volume production of the Solar Roof next year.”

The Tesla solar roof.
The Tesla solar roof.

Dark Days for the Solar Roof

There’s also reason to believe that Tesla could avoid shipping until longer. For a start, the tiles have been slow reaching consumers. Reuters claimed in May that just 12 roofs were on the grid, with Tobler joined by Tri Huynh among the lucky few. In the second quarter earnings call in August, Musk said “we now have several hundred homes with the Solar Roof on them,” which the company later clarified to mean that it included partially-installed setups as well.

“I am quite skeptical about the likelihood of meeting timelines for Tesla’s solar roof range in 2019” Pritil Gunjan, senior research analyst for Navigant, tells Inverse. “Also, since they are significantly overpriced…I guess they would need to deal with cost issues first before ramping up their production.”

The roof’s price is perhaps up for debate. The solar tiles cost $42 per square foot, while non-solar roofs cost only $11. Tesla’s recommendation of 35 percent solar tiles leads to an order price of $21.85 per square foot, which is better but still about twice as much. The hope is that this pricing will be enough to make it an attractive prospect for buyers who aren’t looking to replace their roof entirely.

19 Predictions for 2019: What Inverse Thinks

While the roof has been a long time coming, the initial reviews are positive. With Tesla’s balance sheet looking better than it has been for a while, especially on the solar side, Inverse predicts that the start of volume production will signal the launch of the company’s final two tile designs.

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Media via Tesla