On Friday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that the company will begin taking orders for its Solar Roof product in April. The news was delivered via a Twitter response, in the brief and oblique style that has come to characterize the PR strategy of the company and its iconic CEO.
As such, there are still many questions unanswered. Tesla notes in the waiting list for the Solar Roof on its website that production will begin in “mid-2017”, which means that like the company’s cars there will be a significant delay between signing up and being able to buy the product.
Musk has created of an atmosphere of mystery around Tesla and its products, like some sort of energy and transportation Willy Wonka. It’s a bit maddening for journalists trying to cover the company, but appears to be working to build buzz around its products.
And like Tesla’s cars, the Solar Roof looks to be a luxury product. While Elon Musk has stated that the Solar Roof product will likely cost less to manufacture and install than a “normal” roof – even without the electricity generated – it should be noted that the Solar Roof will imitate slate, terra cotta and tile roofs. These are the most expensive roofs available, with Bloomberg estimating that these materials cost as much as 20x more than asphalt shingles.
In the solar industry there is no shortage of skepticism about the Solar Roof, given the number of building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products that have failed over the years. And yet despite the graveyard of former BIPV designs, Musk appears to be giving new life to the concept, as evidenced by the launch of a new lightweight BIPV panel by Suntech Founder Dr. Zhengrong Shi.
Tesla is also engaging in this venture flush with cash, having recently issued $1 billion in Tesla stocks and convertible bonds in a follow-on offering, to ensure that the company’s coffers were stacked for the launch of the Tesla Model 3.