Musk Says Tesla Merger With SolarCity Is A No Brainer, Provides Numbers

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Originally published on Gas2.

On November 2, Elon Musk took to the stage for a question and answer session with stock analysts. The purpose was to calm any fears within the financial community regarding the prospects for the two companies once they are combined. The merger vote is scheduled for November 17.


Musk was his usual ebullient self. In fact, he took some not-so-jovial pot shots at his detractors. He noted that many people have been predicting a “bad outcome” for him and Tesla Motors since the company went public in 2010. Their batting average is zero, he noted, before asking why anyone would pay any attention to these gadflies when their track record was so abysmal.

There were a lot of big numbers flying around the room during the day. Most of the details are set forth in a lengthy blog post on the company website. I won’t burden you with all the accounting details, but here a few of the more important points:

  • SolarCity is expected to add more than $500 million in cash to Tesla’s balance sheet over the next 3 years.
  • SolarCity has transitioned to a cash or purchase finance model instead of a leasing model. This allows the company to bring more money in the door upfront rather than waiting for lease payments to come in over 20 years.
  • SolarCity has arranged for nearly $1 billion in financing for its business in 2016 alone.
  • SolarCity currently does business in fewer than half of all states. Tesla is a global company with a much greater marketing territory.
  • Combining the companies will create efficiencies that create cost savings of nearly $150 million a year.

In other words, Musk’s message to investors is, “Relax. We’ve got this.” He made much of the fact that SolarCity now has 300,000 rooftop solar systems installed and every one of those homeowners is a candidate for Tesla solar roof or will purchase a Tesla automobile at some point in the future. He also said he expects a significant number of  Model 3 reservation holders will purchase a solar energy product from Tesla.

He believes the synergies between Tesla and SolarCity to be enormous. There are more than 150 million roofs just waiting to be covered with Tesla glass solar tiles in North America alone. Worldwide, the potential market is staggeringly large. Musk tweeted a tease at the competition, asking if anyone had ever made a solar roof that was attractive to look at. The answer, according to Musk, is an emphatic “No.”

Musk reassured people that the cost of the solar roof would not prevent people from purchasing it. “Glass is basically sand,” he said, noting that the solar tiles were actually cheap to manufacture. Apparently, Tesla has created a group within the company called Tesla Glass to devise new ways of making and using glass products.

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Musk says the roof tiles will be self heating, which will allow them to shed any buildup of ice or snow. Whatever energy is used for heating will be more than offset by the extra efficiency the tiles will have in the winter because they are clear of debris. He hinted that some of the tricks Tesla Glass has learned could find their way into the Model 3. Perhaps a solar roof will be an option to help drivers extend the range of their cars on sunny days.

Musk told his audience that the Tesla/SolarCity merger is a no brainer. SolarCity is successful doing business in just 22 states. When combined with Tesla, its products will be marketed to the entire world. When asked if he had thought about what might happen if the merger is not approved, Musk scoffed. Clearly, he expects shareholders of both companies to overwhelmingly approve the merger. It’s what any sensible person would do once presented with all the facts.

Does Elon Musk ever have a private moment when he wonders if he has bitten off more than he can chew? Based on his up-tempo public performances and gentle mocking of his detractors, it hardly seems so. If Musk is excited about replacing millions of roofs with solar tiles, wait until he figures out the gigantic business opportunity solar windows would offer. If you are Elon Musk, the future is solar powered and it’s so bright we all out to be wearing shades!


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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