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Tesla Model 3 will probably have a solar roof option – maybe even ‘deployable’, says CEO Elon Musk


After announcing a new all-glass option similar to the Model 3, but available now on the Model S today, CEO Elon Musk went on a ‘Tweetstorm’ and revealed that Tesla could offer a similar option with embedded solar cells for the Model 3.

The roof would be able to generate solar energy to power the vehicle and/or the components inside…

That’s something that people have been speculating about since earlier this week when Musk said that Model 3 will feature a new type of glass developed in-house by the new ‘Tesla Glass’ tech group.

While Tesla developed the glass part of the ‘solar roof’ products and that automotive applications could just feature some new type of glass without any energy generating capability, we now learn that it could “probably” become an option on Tesla’s upcoming $35,000 all-electric vehicle.

Here’s what he said exactly in response to someone making the same previously mentioned assumption:

Now we’ve discussed solar roofs on Ford EVs before, and most recently with the one on the new Prius Prime, but the recurring problem is that it rarely generates enough power to be worth it.

For example, we estimated that the solar cells on the Prius Prime’s roof could generate enough power to add about ~2 miles of range during the day. And of course, that’s highly dependent on where you are in the world and where you park your car.

A 3 foot by 5 foot rooftop solar panel is usually rated at around 300w. You can almost convert that from hours to miles in a vehicle. If you get the equivalent of 5 rooftop hours of sun a day, you can expect to add 5 miles of range.  That’s about equivalent to Tesla’s original “vampire” draw of electronics over the same period of time but the company has vastly improved this over the years.

A car’s roof is just not very big and efficiently positioned relative to the sun often enough to make a good support for a solar array. It’s generally more efficient to have solar panels at your house and charge your car there – but every little bit helps.

But Musk is now thinking about a “deployable solar shield like a retractable hard top”:

Presumably to increase the surface to generate more energy. It’s hard to tell if he is joking here. After the hyperloop and reusable rocket boosters,  it’s hard not to take him seriously when he floats out of the box ideas like that.

He also commented on the price of the potential system and said that it wouldn’t be “super expensive”:

There’s also a ton of transparent solar technologies out there that use energy from the non-visible infrared or ultraviolet spectrum that can be placed on windows and other surfaces and still get nearly 20% efficiency.

What do you think? Would you go for a solar roof on a Model 3? Or would you prefer an all-glass or panoramic roof version? Let us know in the comment section below.

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