Tesla CEO Elon Musk has previously stated that 2019 will be the year of the Solar Roof, the company’s flagship solar product. This prediction almost seemed like it was forgotten for some time, until now, with the electric car maker launching its Solar Roof V3 (now named Solarglass) last Friday. Solar Roof V3 appears to be yet another sign of a change in Tesla’s CEO, one which indicates that Elon Musk has become more cautious, much to the benefit of the electric car and energy company.
The original Solar Roof tiles were unveiled in 2016 following Tesla’s acquisition of Solar City. Marketed as a more aesthetically pleasing solution for homeowners who wish to get the benefits of a photovoltaic system without committing to traditional rooftop solar panels, the Solar Roof tiles were intended by Tesla to be a revolutionary product, much like its electric vehicle line. Unfortunately, the Solar Roof saw multiple delays, and up until today, only a few installations of the rooftop system have been completed.
So notable was the delay in the Solar Roof rollout that the company’s critics actually began claiming that the product will never be produced. Reports of a Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo that was allegedly not being used to its full potential did not help the company’s narrative. Tesla, for its part, stood firm, with Elon Musk explaining that the Solar Roof tiles are taking longer than usual to release due to the product’s long development cycle. If last Friday was any indication, it appears that Elon Musk’s statements about the Solar Roof tiles were actually true, and the company was only ensuring that the shingles were fully ready before they were ramped.
Solar Roof V3 (or Solarglass, as Musk calls it), is the culmination of all the waiting and refinement that the company has performed on its flagship rooftop solar product. This time around, the solar tiles are bigger at 45″ long by 15″ wide, far larger than the 14″ long by 9″ wide tiles of the first generation producr. This larger size comes with several benefits, including lower cost of production and increased power density, and easier installation. The number of parts in the Solar Roof itself has been reduced due to the larger tiles as well, making the system less prone to potential faults.
These improvements are all centered on one concept: efficiency. While the first iteration of the Solar Roof unveiled by Tesla in 2016 was all about the tiles’ appearance, V3 is all about appearance and practicality. Since they’re larger, employees at Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, NY will be able to manufacture them at a faster rate. Installers will also have a far easier time fitting the tiles into customers’ homes. These advantages have the potential to allow Tesla to ramp its Solar Roof V3 installations quickly.
Ultimately, these improvements to the Solar Roof would not have been made possible with a brash leader at the helm. Elon Musk is known as a CEO that is bold and prone to taking risks, yet with the Solar Roof, he appears to have adopted a far more cautious approach, something that seems to be the right decision considering the potential of the product. The Solar Roof is the solar product that will set Tesla apart from competitors, and the company would be unwise to release a version of the tiles that could not be ramped easily. After all, Tesla Energy has the potential to be a huge business for the Silicon Valley-based company, as noted by Elon Musk during the Q3 2019 earnings call.
“In the long term, I expect Tesla Energy to be of the same or roughly the same size as Tesla’s automotive sector or business. This is the most underappreciated group. I think it could be bigger, but it’s certainly of a similar magnitude to Tesla Solar. Meaning, if you take Tesla Solar plus battery stuff, Tesla Energy is, I think, the least appreciated element,” Musk said.