Ahead of the curve as usual, Tesla announced some very exciting news in the arena of solar energy. In its fourth-quarter investor letter, Tesla announced that it will begin selling and installing its solar roof later this year.
In October 2016, Tesla unveiled its solar roof product, which was about a month before the company acquired SolarCity in a deal worth $2.1 billion. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said it looks "quite promising" that the solar roof could be cheaper than a normal roof, factoring in the price of labor.
Here's everything we know about the new solar roof product:
Tesla will offer four types of shingles to match different housing aesthetics in an effort to get homeowners to ditch clunky solar panel add-ons in favor of a beautiful roof.
"First of all, I’ve never seen a solar roof that I would actually want… they're weird," Musk said on a conference call Nov. 1. "Every one of them that I’ve seen is worse than a normal roof, without exception. So unless you’re going to beat a roof on aesthetics, why bother?"
Here you see Tesla's textured glass option.
Tesla tucked the solar cells behind the glass...
... And in doing so, you can't really tell the roof has solar cells. That's the crux of Tesla's solar roof vision: to create something that's both aesthetically appealing and efficient.
Musk has been emphasizing the importance of competing on an aesthetic level when it comes to the new solar product offering.
Musk seemed most excited about Tesla's French slate tile offering, saying the style is "one of the hardest things to do." This photo gives you a nice look at the solar cell hidden in the tile.
"My roof is a French slate roof, that’s one of the tile styles I wanted to do," Musk said on the conference call. "And we were able to get that. Super hard.”
Musk said at the event that each French slate tile was made using a process known as hydrographic coloring, a process that uses water to apply printed designs.
"The production process itself makes each tile specially unique, it’s sort of a special snowflake tile," Musk said at the solar roof unveiling.
Tesla's hydrographic process is being overseen by a brand new Tesla glass tech division, Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. He said the process is "using a lot of techniques from the automotive glass business."
Musk said the solar roof could cost less than an actual roof, but still hasn't given specific pricing information. However, Lyndon Rive, SolarCity's former CEO, said on the Nov. 1 call that "we think we can get to that price point of 40 cents a Watt over time in large scale" for the solar cells, which would put it in line with the competition.
"We’ll have the best cell at the lowest price. Just as we have the best battery cell at the lowest price," Musk said on the Nov. 1 call. "We have the highest energy density cell at the lowest price."
Rive said on the call that the solar roof would most likely not fall under a lease or power purchase agreement, but instead as a straightforward loan. "In that case, there is no asset ownership challenge. We would just transfer the ownership to the new homeowner," he said.
Tesla's smooth glass tile is meant to offer "more of a modern look," Musk said at the event.
Unlike the textured glass tile and French slate offering, the smooth glass tile seen here was purposefully designed so you could see the solar cells from certain angles.
"From the vantage point of the street or anywhere near the house it looks completely opaque, but to the sun it’s transparent," Musk said. Although, it's hard to imagine why a feature you can only see from an aerial vantage point would be a huge selling point.
Lastly, Tesla's Tuscan glass tile offering. The roof shown at the event wasn't exclusively made up of Tesla's Tuscan tile. Instead, only the darker tiles seen here come with the solar cells.
Like the smooth glass tile, Musk made a point of showing how looking at the Tuscan tile from different angles will determine whether you can see the solar cell.
Here's a better shot of how the Tuscan glass tiles look once they're installed.
Musk also made a point of showing the durability of Tesla's glass tiles with a weight taste. He also wrote in an Oct. 28 tweet that you can walk on the tiles like you would with regular asphalt shingles.
Musk also tweeted that the solar glass tiles can incorporate heating elements to clear snow while generating energy. He said it wouldn't be energy intensive to melt the snow, but "strongly net positive" in an Oct. 28 tweet.
The solar cells will be produced at a plant in Buffalo, New York. Tesla and Panasonic will produce the solar cells at the Buffalo manufacturing facility in mid-2017. Tesla is referring to the Buffalo plant as Gigafactory 2.
Musk's solar roof product is one of several energy products Tesla is offering now that it's merged with SolarCity.