Tesla CEO Elon Musk has confirmed on Twitter that the company is working to ramp up the production of its solar roof tiles to a rate of 1000 per week by the end of the year. Rollout of the solar roof tiles has been slower than the company expected back when they were first revealed in a 2016 event at the Universal Studios backlot in Southern California.
Spooling up production line rapidly. Hoping to manufacture ~1000 solar roofs/week by end of this year.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2019
We still don’t know much about version 3 of Tesla’s solar roof tiles, but there are a number of areas the company could improve them to drive higher adoption, lower cost, or better payouts. The early builds of the solar roof tiles had relatively low efficiencies at ~18%. Improving this to a higher percentage using better solar cells could see this number climbing as high as 23%, which would generate more power and result in faster payouts for homeowners if all other factors remained the same (like purchase price).
Musk originally showed off four versions of the solar roof tiles, but to date, only the textured solar roof tiles have been installed on the homes of customers. Building out the three remaining configurations of the product in the smooth, slate, and tuscan finishes would open up the product to new customers living in homes that are better suited to one of the other finishes.
Since that time, Tesla moved production out of the initial development space and into its Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, New York, and started down what turned out to be a long road of product development. The ultimate goal was to reimagine both the roofing business and the solar business and nail the sweet spot between the two with a solar roof tile that installed faster than a traditional roof, was far more durable than your average roof, and churned out solar.
The early images and videos of the roof tiles showed them looking more like LEGO blocks, with the solar roof tiles delivered and installed in pre-wired blocks of three. LEGOs are quick and easy to put together and Musk and his team at Tesla aspired to do the same with an easy-to-install, long-lasting, solar-generating Tesla-branded glass roof.
Later in the process, we learned that Tesla had been refining the design of its solar roof tiles, with a new version 3 of the roof tiles that could be the mass-market build. This new announcement comes just weeks after the announcement of version 3 of the solar roof tiles and shows a renewed focus from the company on the non-battery side of Tesla Energy.
Installations of the earlier versions of the solar roof have trickled out of the company, but have failed to truly deliver on the promise of Tesla’s early solar roof tile vision of a solar roof tile for the masses. On the cost front, views into early installations of the solar roof show a favorable payout compared to the cost to install a traditional roof and solar panel-based system. (That’s a link to a full, real-world analysis conducted for a new home.)
Prospects for Tesla’s solar roof continue to look favorable, as the cost of the roof tiles themselves will continue to fall as Tesla ramps up production. Looking beyond the current low production volumes to a future where Tesla is producing 1,000 systems per week, an inevitable installation and permitting hell awaits. There is truly no rest for the team at Tesla as it continues to push to create new markets, new vehicles, and new products in its quest to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
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