Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) is killing the integrated solar car concept. The firm’s CEO Elon Musk told the gathered governors of the United States over the weekend that despite putting engineers to work on the task, a solar powered EV just isn’t going to make it to market. The solar roof concept for the Model 3 affordable EV seems to be dead.
That means that a car that runs on its own steam a la Race The Sun, isn’t coming to our roads, or at least not any time soon. Elon Musk and his engineering teams will instead be putting their focus on the “classic” Tesla model. That means powering superchargers with solar power, and powering cars from those stations.
The whole meeting with governors was full of interesting points. Musk called for AI regulation and spoke about the Model 3, among other things. Though his political forays may sometimes hurt, Elon Musk is one of very few people with interest in these issues, and access to the rooms they need to be talked about in.
Tesla Inc can’t make the sun work harder
Race The Sun, for those unfamiliar, is a mediocre 1996 film starring Halle Berry (also Jim Belushi). It recounts the story of a solar-powered car race. In the course of the movie, we learn two things about solar powered cars. The first is that they’re completely awesome. The second is that they’re impractical and don’t really work well.
This, however, was equally true of the electric car before Tesla came along. Unfortunately, the firm doesn’t seem to think it can rise to the challenge of making a car with a solar roof really work.
The problem is size and location. You can’t keep your car’s roof out of the shade all the time, and it’s too small to generate much power. If your car had a solar roof, you would be better off parking in direct sunlight. That might be fine if you live in Maine, but in Arizona those kinds of compromises can cause a lot of trouble.
Musk had said earlier this year that a solar roof on the Model 3 could be an option. It was not fully ruled out at the weekend either. Musk said that a “deployable” solar roof could still be an option. It would, in one version, emerge from the trunk like a parasol when the car is parked. That won’t be launching with the Model 3, however.
Despite what Elon Musk says, some firm’s are still looking for ways to make a solar roof on a car work. The Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid from Toyota, is going to have an optional solar roof. Tesla will, instead, focus on its current model which appears to have the best rate of return.
Tesla is still focused on a solar roof
Though it won’t work on a car, Tesla is very keen on the future of the solar roof. The firm has solar panels across its Supercharger stations, and it has begun to work on its “solar tiles.” The latter product is one of the most interesting things that the firm is working on right now.
It would allow anybody to completely cover the roof of their house in solar panels, while maintaining the aesthetic of an ordinary roof. That could make solar a much more attractive prospect for thousands of people. The only issue, as with so many Tesla products, is when the firm will begin to actually produce the product.
The solar roof combined with a home battery, coincidentally also sold by Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA), makes for a home that can create and use its own electric power. That power can then be used to charge a car battery meaning very cheap driving. It may not be the actual solar car put out there in popular culture, but it’s a low-carbon, beautiful method of transport.
At the end of the day it’s powered almost directly by the sun, and the “long tailpipe” that Elon Musk is rightly concerned about gets a whole lot cleaner.
Elon Musk gets a little paranoid
At the governors’ meeting Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Musk spoke about a lot more than cars with solar roofs. He made reference to a lot of other projects that his firm is working on, and some of the risks it faces going forward. Among those, he said, are cybersecurity threats.
“I think one of the biggest concern for autonomous vehicles is somebody achieving a fleet-wide hack,” he told the governors.
He continued with an illustrative, if surreal, example of what could be done with that power.
“In principles, if someone was able to say hack all the autonomous Teslas, they could say – I mean just as a prank – they could say ‘send them all to Rhode Island’ – across the United States,” he warned somewhat whimsically.
That would leave a lot of angry people on Rhode Island according to Musk, and could even be the end of his firm.
Now might be the worst time for Elon Musk’s paranoia about security to fail. Tesla stock is in a truly delicate position, and the future of the company is far from secure.
Tesla stock holds on… for now
We really don’t know what the future holds for Tesla stock, but we can be certain that it has entered a crucial period. In the “buy the rumor, sell the news” dynamic, Elon Musk’s firm is hurdling toward the latter. The consumer version of the Model 3 will soon be on the road, and we’ll be getting reviews of the car very soon indeed.
Shares in Tesla have stabilized since hitting a low on July 6th. Trading around the firm has been furtive as Wall Street makes bets on whether or not the Model 3 will be up to scratch. Whether demand for the Model S and Model X is going to stay as strong going forward is another big question.
A lot of the talk on Wall Street has been negative on the firm over the last couple of weeks. The most impactful report likely came from David Tamberrino of Goldman Sachs. The analyst put a price target of $180 on the firm’s shares, and argued that momentum was not justified.
Mr Tamberrino argued against the firm for both current and future products. “Demand for TSLA’s established products (Model S and Model X) appear to be plateauing slightly below a 100k annual run rate,” he wrote.
He added “we see potential for downside as the Model 3 launch curve undershoots the company’s production targets.”
That’s a sort of nightmare scenario for those invested in Tesla stock. Solar roofs or no, the firm’s future is in a very delicate position right now.