The future looks bright for the Tesla Solar Roof as the company gears up to launch a third-generation design of its solar-harvesting tiles. After incorporating learnings from the handful of Tesla solar roofs already in operation, Tesla Solar Roof Version 3 is said to look more like a standard roof to the untrained eye.
“I’m really excited about version three of solar roof,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk told the audience at the annual shareholders meeting on June 11, hosted at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
The solar roof is perhaps one of Tesla’s most mysterious products, and its version numbers are relatively elusive. Musk first demonstrated the roof at an October 2016 event, which featured the house of the future alongside a Tesla Model 3 electric car and Powerwall battery powered by the solar roof. Musk said in August 2017 that both he and chief technology officer JB Straubel had installed the roof on their home.
It’s unclear how, if at all, later installations differed from these first constructions. Amanda Tobler, one of the first real consumers to install a solar roof, tells Inverse that Tesla did not specify the version number of the roof she had installed in March 2018.
“They didn’t present it to me as ‘you’re getting a particular version’,” Tobler says.
Installations have remained relatively rare, a May 2018 report found that just 12 roofs had been installed in total.
Musk explained the low installations by noting that the Tesla Model 3 ramp up had left the company starved for battery cells. These cells are critical, they are how the Tesla Powerwall is able to store excess energy harvested throughout the day and use it to provide power 24 hours a day. Tesla states it is currently fitting the product in eight states. With Musk declaring 2019 as the year of the solar roof, the third-generation tiles will have to make an even bigger splash than their predecessor.
Tesla Solar Roof V3: Features
Tesla has offered little detail about version 3. The January investor letter stated that the company would “ramp up” production “with significantly improved manufacturing capabilities,” based on the “design iterations and testing underway.” Installations would continue gradually “to gather further learnings from our design changes,” while learning more about the process by “implementing them in areas around the U.S. that are experiencing inclement weather.”
The tiles are also going to be built to last. The tempered glass that covers the tiles is reportedly three times as strong than slate or asphalt, and the company boasts an “infinity” warranty for the non-solar aspects. Musk’s most recent comments suggest that Tesla plans further improvements.
A document leaked to Electrek suggests a big priority for Tesla is making the roof blend in with the rest of the house better, an important step if the Tesla Solar Roof is going to enter the mainstream. This means Tesla will have to create “custom-designed flashings and ridgecaps” around the home to maximize weather-proofing, and that the home’s vents and skylights are also modified to match the roof.
Musk appeared to confirm these features in a Twitter post:
Tesla Solar Roof V3: Price
While the solar roof is already relatively cheap all things considered — roof installations are pricey — it will have to get even cheaper to incentivize people to make the switch. Right now, Tesla’s solar-generating tiles cost $42 per square foot, while non-solar dummy tiles cost $11 per square foot. As Tesla recommends at least 35 percent solar tiles on the roof, this means that a solar roof costs an average of $21.85 per square foot including both the solar and non-solar tiles. Energy savings, the company claims, will eventually make solar roof customers break even.
Energy savings might not be necessary to spur installations forever. During the recent annual investor event, Musk himself suggested that the total cost of the roof could reach even lower, low enough to beat the cost of a roof plus utility costs.
“I don’t want to be over-confident on this, but I think we have a shot at being equal to a comp shingle roof plus someone’s utility costs, or maybe lower than that,” Musk told the audience.
Tesla Solar Roof V3: Release Date
The third-generation roof is currently undergoing tests to ensure it can meet the company’s lofty lifetime goals. These trials are expected to take place over six months to help the company simulate 30 years of wear.
Musk claimed at the investor event that the company has nearly completed work on the new tiles. However, the promised Tuscan and slate-colored styles remain nowhere to be seen. If new color variants are part of the Tesla Solar Roof’s next iteration, we’ll likely be able to catch a glimpse of them soon.
Tesla’s solar roof is one of Tesla’s most audacious projects, the clean energy supplier for the home of the future. But Tesla still has many hurdles to clear, not only proving that their solar shingles can blend in on many kinds of roofs, but also that they can withstand inclement weather and the tests of time. To become a feasible option for everyday homeowners, it will also likely have to bring its costs down. The race is on.