Tesla’s solar roof tiles are not the first attempt at integrating solar cells into roofing products. Several companies have tried in the past and even delivered some products, even big companies like Dow Chemical, but they ended up discontinuing the product.
Now Tesla thinks that it has a winning formula and its new Vice President of Solar Products went as far as saying that other solar companies looking to compete in the segment are “kind of fucked”.
Peter Rive, Elon Musk’s cousin and the brother of Lyndon Rive, former co-founder and CEO of SolarCity, used to be Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of SolarCity with his brother.
After Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity, he became Tesla’s new Vice President of Solar Products.
In an interview with Fast Company about the acquisition, Rive said:
“If you just created a solar shingle, you’re kind of fucked. I don’t think anybody but the combination of SolarCity and Tesla can pull this off.”
The move is part of Elon Musk’s plan to offer solar products with better aesthetics in order to create a distinctive brand that can be differentiated from other installers on a product basis.
He said when first announcing that they were working on such solar products:
“I think this is really a fundamental part of achieving differentiated product strategy,”
The big difference with Tesla’s solar tiles is that the solar cells in the tiles are not visible from street view. Only from a higher angle, like from the sun’s angle, can they be clearly visible.
Other companies have developed a similar technology, like Forward Labs, which unveiled its product just before Tesla/SolarCity’s.
As we reported at the time, it was so similar that SolarCity’s head of product development even reached out to the company to learn more about it.
Since the efficiency of either product has yet to be tested, the main difference between Forward Labs and Tesla’s solar roofs is that Forward’s solution replaces steel roofing options, while Tesla is currently going after concrete tiles, French slates, and Spanish style roofs, which are different markets.
One of the differentiating factors that could be giving Rive so much confidence in Tesla’s solar roof tiles is the connector, which Musk described as having “a shocking amount of technology .”
Tesla CTO JB Straubel said that the automaker managed to leverage its experience manufacturing connectors for electric vehicles in order to design and produce the connectors for the tiles.
In a presentation yesterday, Musk added that eventually, installing the solar roof tiles should be “like connecting Lego blocks.”
We should have a much better idea of the process once the first installations start, which could be as soon as by the end of the month.
Tesla solar roof products are perfect for homeowners who want solar and need a new roof relatively soon, but a regular solar panel installation is still a better solution for people who don’t need a new roof. Solar and energy storage prices are highly dependent on your market (electricity cost, gov incentives, etc.) and your property. We suggest getting quotes from more than one installer to make sure you get the best energy solution for your place. UnderstandSolar is a great free service to link you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates for free.
Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe to the podcast.