Update: As of October 8, 2021, Tesla restored traditional solar panel systems to the referral program offering a $300 cash reward for buyer and referrer. Original article follows:
Today it appears that the rumors about Tesla revising its referral program were true: As of September 18, 2021, Tesla is no longer offering any referral incentives on the purchase of Tesla cars or traditional solar panel systems. The only Tesla product that still benefits from a referral discount is the Tesla solar roof. As of today, buyers of a Tesla solar roof who use a Tesla referral code can still get $500 back after installation. The referring customer will also receive a $500 referral bonus after the system is installed. But the previous bonus of free supercharging miles for car purchases or leases is no longer in effect.
As with many Tesla “announcements,” there wasn’t one. Tesla simply changed the terms of the referral program on their web site without notice. The change comes just one week after Tesla increased the referral bonus for the purchase of any Tesla solar system from $100 to $500. But now purchasers of traditional solar panel systems no longer qualify for the referral bonus. Customers need to order the pricier solar roof option. It remains unclear why Tesla has increased the referral bounty of solar roof systems when the company has also recently stated that they are having trouble keeping up with demand for the PowerWall – Tesla’s home battery. As of April of this year, all Tesla solar systems (solar roof and traditional solar panel systems) require the purchase of one or more PowerWalls as part of the system.
The benefits of combining a large battery with a solar power system are significant: customers can save money and reduce strain on the grid by shifting their electricity usage from peak hours to off-peak hours. During peak usage hours, customers can draw electricity from the PowerWall instead of from the grid. They can then recharge the PowerWall from solar or from the grid during off-peak hours when power is cheaper. A PowerWall or two can also help provide continuous power to a customer during a blackout. Rather than installing a diesel or natural-gas powered backup generator, PowerWall owners can draw power from their own batteries and recharge those batteries from their solar panels until grid power is restored. But a PowerWall is still fairly expensive – currently $6,500 for the battery and $4,000 for additional hardware and installation. Current generation PowerWalls store around 13 kWh of electricity, which may not be enough capacity, depending on the length of the power outage. In some cases, Tesla recommends that multiple PowerWalls be installed to provide more backup power.
As for the referral program changes, Tesla has previously hinted that a new version of the referral program for car purchases could be coming at some point in the future, one that requires more direct involvement and interaction between referrer and buyer. A new referral program may even require that the prospective buyer schedule a test drive in order to qualify for a referral bonus. Apparently the free supercharging perk of the previous referral program cost Tesla millions of dollars in the first quarter of this year. It seems that the company may believe that the mechanism of the current referral program is too simple: click a link, get a bonus. By making the referral mechanism a little more complicated or labor intensive, Tesla may hope to be able to continue to offer an incentive to existing customers and to new buyers when a personal referral and connection is actually made between referrer and buyer. Tesla has not yet revealed any official details on a revised referral program for automobiles or for traditional solar power systems.