Musk Reads: Tesla Solar Undercuts Grid Power

Tesla solar rentals undercut grid power; more autonomous driving is coming soon; and Norway is shifting to electric.

Tesla solar rentals undercut grid power; more autonomous driving is coming soon; and Norway is shifting to electric. It’s Musk Reads: Tesla Edition #98.

A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

Musk Quote of the Week

“Looking forward to seeing Giga Shanghai soon 😀 Amazing work by Tesla China team & support of authorities much appreciated!”


Tesla’s vehicles are about to get smarter. Version 10 of the company’s software is set to go live in four to eight weeks, Musk revealed on Tuesday. The upgrade will offer smarter summoning features, which enable users to send their vehicle from the garage to the road autonomously. The new software will also include new games, infotainment features, better traffic light recognition, better support for stop signs, and improved Autopilot. Musk suggested as early as last year that the new version could feature the first major steps toward full autonomous driving. On Tuesday, Musk confirmed that the long-expected price jumps for the full self-driving upgrade will take place after version 10 launches.

Tesla is dramatically pushing down diesel sales in Norway. Researcher Rystad Energy found that more than half of all cars sold in Norway this year are at least partially electric, while diesel car sales dropped 95 percent in some cases. Where diesel and gas held a 60 percent and 29 percent share of the market respectively in 2013, those figures have now dropped to 32 percent and 17 percent respectively this year. Norway’s positive electric car policies, which Inverse explored last year, are pushing more buyers to make the switch.

It’s not just Norway that’s going big for Tesla. Research gathered by IHS found that in California, quarterly sales shot up 39 percent year-over-year. Model 3 deliveries topped 33,000, granting it a 46.2 percent share of the near-luxury market.

Tesla Solar

It emerged on Wednesday that Walmart is suing Tesla’s energy division. The lawsuit claims Tesla was negligent when it installed solar roof panels on its stores. The store hired Tesla to install panels on 240 of its stores but links the firm’s negligence to several solar panel fires that occurred between 2012 and 2018. The store claims that Tesla itself found 157 action items needing repairs, and its own investigation concluded that Tesla “had engaged in widespread, systemic negligence and had failed to abide by prudent industry practices in installing, operating, and maintaining its solar systems.”

The lawsuit comes in the same week that Tesla rolled out its new solar rental offering, designed to undercut the price of grid power with a simple, easy-to-understand monthly rental fee. The new scheme offers solar rental for homes in six American states at a cost of at least $50 per month. Tesla claims the panels could save over $150 per month for some buyers. The rollout comes as Tesla plans to produce multiple terawatt-hours of batteries per year and offer a Megapack for grid-scale projects. Read more.

What’s next for Tesla: The Tesla Pickup Truck is due for unveiling “maybe 2 to 3 months” from now, Musk claimed last month, as the team works to put the finishing touches on a mass-market vehicle billed by Musk as “cyberpunk.”

Musk Reads Mailroom

Rowen Negrin writes:

  • Please suggest to our most eloquent Elon to use his brilliant mind to stay centered on continuing to better his, our Earth. Water, water, water! Please work on desalination for the world’s population. Plus, continue with your other visionary enterprises.

Tesla is already powering desalination today, as it turns out. GivePower, which Inverse interviewed in July, is using six Tesla Powerwall batteries and 50 kilowatts of solar panels to produce 75,000 liters of water per day. The batteries enable 24-hour operations without connection to any grid power. The first installation is in Kiyunga in Kenya, and the next one is planned for Haiti. Using 40,000 systems, GivePower could provide water for 1 billion people.

Tom Egan writes:

  • As an engineer, I understand and appreciate many of the design decisions that have been made for my Model 3. But not all … In particular, my new and expensive luxury car does not have the ability that even inexpensive cars have: an A.M. radio. But who listens to A.M.? For news, I do. There is no other way to get news when on the road.

Unfortunately, the rise of the electric car could accelerate the decline of AM radio. Vice News reported in 2016 that BMW and Tesla moved away from AM radio because the car’s electromagnetic interference is more likely to get picked up by the radio. A Tesla spokesperson told the publication that “because AM audio quality can be very poor, we offer internet radio to give our customers considerably better sound quality and reception coverage.” Users may have to wait for their favorite stations to make the jump.

John Hana writes:

  • That writer’s reference to what his local dealer wants to sell Model 3s for - well, it just doesn’t hold water.
  • As I’d imagine you’re aware, one of Tesla’s badges of innovation is eschewing “dealers” entirely.
  • No Tesla dealership cares what Tesla’s sell for, because Tesla dealerships don’t exist; Tesla is fighting legal battles that - should be unnecessary - in States in which it can’t have it’s own wholly owned stores by legislation that seeks to force automobiles to sell only via independently (from the automaker) dealerships. […]

This is an important point in Tesla’s strategy, and perhaps a source of confusion for the average buyer. Indeed, Tesla’s direct-to-consumer model means that they skip the traditional dealership setup. This setup has led to pushback from Indiana and Michigan, among other states. Tesla claims it enables the firm to explain the benefits of electric vehicles directly instead of working through a business that may have an interest in spreading misinformation about the new technology.

However, it seems that in common speech, the term “dealership” is regularly used to refer to any business that sells vehicles. The Sun and The Argus described a fire at one of the firm’s “dealerships” in the United Kingdom, and Reuters has also previously described Tesla’s stores as “dealerships.” Google Trends shows a rise in searches for “Tesla dealerships” over the past five years.

Right or wrong, it appears this description of Tesla’s stores is likely to remain popular with the average consumer, who is likely unfamiliar with the finer details of the company’s strategy.

Got any comments or queries? Don’t forget to send them over to

In Other Musk News…

Andrew Yang and Musk are singing each other’s praises. The Democratic presidential hopeful noted his “admiration” for Musk this week as someone who’s “contributed a lot to the world.” Yang, who is running on a platform of universal basic income, received an endorsement from Musk on August 10 via Twitter. Musk followed up by declaring Yang’s headline policy is “obviously needed,” a position he has voiced in the past.

Photo of the Week

The Tesla Semi truck spotted pulling 75,000 pounds and exceeding range estimates.

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The Ultra-Fine Print

This has been Musk Reads: Tesla Edition #98, the weekly rundown of essential reading about futurist and entrepreneur Elon Musk. I’m Mike Brown, an innovation journalist for Inverse.

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A version of this article appeared in the “Musk Reads” newsletter. Sign up for free here.

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