Tesla was just granted a new series of patents that shed some light on the techniques it will use on its upcoming curved and flat solar roof tiles. These design techniques will presumably be employed as Tesla moves towards the first commercial version of Tuscan-style solar roof tiles, which are expected to move into mass production a bit later than the Tesla solar roof tiles that have just been installed on my roof.
Curved Solar Roof Tile Design
The first of the three new patents, US 2019 245 478 A1, details a few of Tesla’s strategies for implanting flat solar cells into the curved solar roof tiles that look like more traditional Spanish roof tiles. From the filing, we can see that Tesla is planning to actually embed the flat solar cells into the curved bell shape of the tiles. To do this, Tesla has developed a tile that is rounded on the exposed surface, but flat on the inside to accommodate flat strips of solar cells.
According to the filing, the tiles will be comprised of, “a transparent front cover having a first surface and a second surface, wherein the first surface comprises at least one portion that is convexly curved, wherein the second surface comprises a plurality of flat facets, and wherein the flat facets are arranged to follow the contour of the at least one convexly curved portion of the first surface.”
Taking this approach could allow Tesla to build solar cells into more surface area than would be possible on a flat roof made of solar roof tiles, but with the tradeoff that only a portion of the cells would be directly facing the sun at any point in time.
The filing discusses a curved solar roof tile design that supports both pre-wired solar modules as well as solar roof tiles that make the electrical connection to the home electrical circuit through a special connector with the adjoining panels (806 and 808 in the graphic below). Devising a system where solar roof tiles could effectively be installed as easily, quickly, and reliably as traditional roofing tiles could drastically lower the incremental cost to install a solar roof system.
The reliability of the methodology has to be a key concern for a solar roofing system that isn’t just bolted into an existing roof, but that must function as both a roof and an electrically connected solar system simultaneously for the life of the home.
Tesla Solar Roof Tile Manufacturing
Tesla’s ambitious move into building-integrated photovoltaics challenged the existing mindset that solar was something to be bolted onto the outside of homes, to live outside the envelope of the home. Instead, Tesla sought to recreate the aesthetic of traditional roofing tiles with four primary form factors: textured, smooth, Tuscan, and slate.
A new patent filing (US 2019 241 455 A1) from Tesla gives us some insights into how Tesla plans to produce some of these tiles, including a few options for different manufacturing techniques. The first technique details a stamping approach, where flat solar roof tiles are stamped between a flat bottom mold and a textured surface mold.
The technique could conceivably be used for rounded Tuscan tiles, and might even be the best approach for such a tile, given the round surface on top and the complex angled flat interior surfaces. It is easy to imagine this technique being used to produce one of Tesla’s slate solar roof tiles.
The second method shows a method where glass is pressed between two rolling surfaces, each with its own texture.
The patent filings come as Tesla puts the finishing touches on version 3 of its solar roof tiles. To date, only textured solar roof tiles have been installed on any customer homes. Tesla’s sales team told CleanTechnica reader jjn1056 that the Tuscan tiles might be available in December or January, but as with many things Tesla, that has to be taken for a grain of salt until they’re actually bolted down and on the roof.
All images from the patent filings as listed on PatentSwarm.