Tesla Motors Inc has clear plans to surpass its status as producer of luxurious electric cars. While it is true the young car maker surges strongly through the auto industry, being considered when consumers are at home seems just as appealing to Elon Musk and his company as being wowed on the road. Promising to bring sexy back to solar, the Tesla chief exec went up on stage at LA’s Universal Studios on Friday evening. There he unveiled his company’s next step towards becoming a rounded, clean energy giant.
Roof tiles. That is what the eccentric Tesla CEO revealed last night before several hundred invited guests. Part of the firm’s agenda was to offset the negativity still looming over its controversial merger with SolarCity. However, Musk seemed mostly set on proving just how easy it will be to rake in household consumers with the combined efforts of the two energy companies. They were by no means mere ordinary tiles, of course. Made of glass, the textured roof pieces are fitted with solar cells and nearly indistinguishable from ordinary roof tiles.
Tesla moves in on solar
Making solar tiles just as appealing as electric cars have become in recent years is what Tesla plans to do, Musk reports. Every household roof can and should be solar according to the chief exec. And why not? They’re cost effective in the long run and sustainable. Their mass use can ease entire communities off their reliance on non-renewable power.
“We need to make solar panels as appealing as electric cars have become,” the CEO insisted. “It needs to be beautiful, affordable and seamlessly integrated.” If all those bases are covered and such technology is a made readily available, “why would you go any other direction?”
Musk directed the audience’s attention to a set of houses on Universal’s Wisteria Lane. For those not familiar with set, it is used in the series Desperate Housewives. Regardless, the CEO proved just how close to normal tiles they appear by telling the invited onlookers that all the houses were actually fitted with Tesla’s solar tiles.
“From the street, it was virtually impossible to tell; the roofs retained a variety of traditional looks, from textured slate shingle to terra cotta tile,” the Wire reports.
Glancing at the solar tiles from low angles makes them look solid and nontransparent. It is only upon closer inspection that one sees they are see-through, showing the hidden cells hidden within. The trick lies in a special coating that changes transparency based on the angle at which it is viewed. This effect is much like the privacy-enabling screens on most modern laptops and smartphones, which can appear dimmed to people not directly in front of these devices. The bottom line is that sunlight passes through the glass tiles just fine while anyone at ground-level sees conventional roof tiles.
A roof made of glass, Elon? Really?
Though appealing to look at, a whole heap of factors naturally spring to the mind of the skeptical buyer, and rightly so. What would the cost of maintaining these tiles be over the years? Can they withstand the heat, cold and extreme weather conditions like hail? Musk took care of such concerns by showing the audience clips of drop tests. These proved the solar tiles are more durable than normal slate or clay tiles.
Musk told those present that the tiles have a quasi-infinite lifetime. “[They’re] never going to wear out.”
Pushing the Tesla Powerwall
On Friday the benefit of adopting SolarCity Corp. in order to enhance the value of Tesla’s existing products was also made clear. Elon Musk showcased Version 2 of the Tesla Powerwall that same evening. The company’s solar rooftops are made to work with the new household battery. The Powerwall and Powerpack – its industrial counterpart — were revealed last year in April. It is a home battery that collects electricity from either the city grid or solar panels. It can be used to energize homes and businesses or as a back-up power supply.
Tesla’s new rooftop tech has all the workings of a successful strategy, says Andy Ogden. He chairs the Industrial Design Department at California’s ArtCenter College of Design. “If he can make it easier, and less expensive and more attractive for roofs to be solar, then that will drive the uptake of battery systems.”
A winning strategy
Tesla’s goal to seamlessly integrate clean energy solutions into existing markets forms part of a master plan that will see the company grow into a formidable road and household name. All this will take place while offering extremely stylish products. The firm takes a page from the success of its appealing luxury EVs. A sleek glass roof that powers your home but looks like any other holds the same appeal that draws buyers to an elegant car with a sporty edge but actually runs on a electricity.
Sure, normal solar panels get the job done, but one can’t deny that they often sit hideously on rooftops and lessen the look of homes. Tesla has repeatedly gone out of its way to prove that going green doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. The shame is that this is usually the drawback of products that can save the planet.
No price details were made available for Tesla Motor Inc.’s solar tiles or when they will be out on the market. The new Powerwall goes for $5,500 for 14kWh of storage and a peak power draw of 7kWh. A single one of these is able to power an ordinary four bedroom home for an entire day.