The Tesla Solar launch took place at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, surrounded by the houses formerly occupied by the Desperate Housewives, which had been fitted out with the new roof tile options and the new Powerwall units. Needless to say, Tesla cars adorned the garage spaces.
One of the most important aspects of the launch was that you couldn’t tell that the Housewives’ houses were actually topped by solar tiles, whose initial largely cosmetic options are relatively discreet and lifelike – tuscan (like a terracotta roof tile), slate, textured (a shingle effect) and smooth.
Despite their looks, the tiles (photo right) are made of tempered glass with a colour film which mimics the chosen style and a solar cell within and all work at near as dammit the efficiency of a conventional solar panel.
Much was made of their toughness and lifespan. “We expect this to have two or three times the longevity of asphalt” said Elon Musk. “It’s really never going to wear out. It’s got a quasi-infinite lifetime. It’s made of quartz.”
In contrast, little precision was afforded the cost of the roof options, beyond the statement that it would work out as “Lower cost than a traditional roof when combined with projected utility bill savings”.
To store the energy collected by the roof system, the new Powerwall 2 boasts double the energy of Tesla’s first generation battery and can power a two-bedroom home for a full day.
Powerwall 2 is stackable and, now with a built-in inverter to convert the sunlight collected by the tiles into electricity, installation is now simpler, either indoors or out.
The costs of one 14 kWh Powerwall battery was put at US$5,500, plus installation and supporting hardware (US$1,000 and upwards).
Installations are slated to begin in 2017 and, although US consumers can already place a deposit, the pundits have it that the success or failure of Mr Musk’s latest Big Idea depends very much on the still pending purchase of Solar City, whose scale and infrastructure Tesla will need to carry off this potentially large scale direct to consumer model.
(UPDATE: Shareholders of both companies have just agreed the acquisition, so watch this space!)
Watch the full video of the event (from which our stills were taken) here: