Is third time the charm for Tesla’s solar roof?

The future Musk wants to make happen.
The future Musk wants to make happen.
Image: Tesla
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Tesla is re-releasing its solar roof—again.

The third version arrived yesterday. The company first launched the product in 2016 under the newly acquired Solar City. It promised textured glass shingles—hydrographically printed to resemble French slate or Tuscan glass—that could send electricity into Tesla’s home batteries.

But Tesla failed to install more than a limited number around the country due to high manufacturing and installation costs, as well as technical issues. Recently, Walmart sued Tesla for allegedly igniting blazes on seven stores where its solar panels (a different but related product) were installed.

Undeterred, Musk said in a conference call yesterday that Tesla’s latest offering is a huge improvement on previous versions that proved expensive, unwieldy, and far too complex to install efficiently. “They didn’t really work,” he said, comparing them to early iterations of Microsoft’s Windows software.

Tesla’s latest version features larger tiles, higher power density, new materials, simpler designs, more attractive aesthetics, and a 25-year warranty. The company will first offer textured black glass tile and then release new variants every six to nine months. A clay roof-like version is at least a year away.

Tesla hopes to install more than 1,000 roofs per week in the coming months while ramping up installations “as fast as possible.” Eventually, certified independent installers will be able to sell and install the product themselves. The company is hiring installers but refused to say how many teams were already on board, or when such partnerships would be approved. On the call, Tesla employees would only say the solar roofs will be available in at least 25 states where the company already sells solar panels.

Musk predicted Tesla’s roof was suited for 100 million houses worldwide, and an obvious choice for almost anyone installing a new roof. “It’s the thing that should be, so we’re going to make it,” he said. “The future I think we all want is…when you look around at a neighborhood and the roofs are gathering energy and doing something useful. They look beautiful. They are very robust and resilient, and they are powering the houses they shelter. In 20 years from now, you’ll look around the neighborhood and that’s how it is.”