Elon Musk is poised to make a big announcement about Tesla’s solar roof on Friday. Be skeptical, very skeptical.
Even after deception and misdirection, Elon keeps us coming back for more.
The solar roof started life as a stunt back in October 2016, when the Tesla CEO unveiled a rooftop of solar tiles at Universal Studios’ Desperate Housewives set. They looked real, but turned out to be nonfunctional props.
The goal at the time was to convince shareholders that they should let Musk acquire SolarCity, the leading rooftop solar installer, founded by Musk’s cousins and owned in part by him. The solar roof illustrated the potential riches that could be unlocked by combining Tesla engineering expertise with SolarCity’s mastery of the rooftop solar market. Shareholders said yes, overwhelmingly.
Fast-forward three years, and Musk is still baiting and switching with the solar roof. On Wednesday’s earnings call with investors, during which he had plenty of legitimate achievements to share, Musk decided to tease yet another solar roof launch. It would be an “official product launch” scheduled for the following afternoon.
The next day arrived, and Tesla watchers and journalists looked on, but no word came from Tesla about any official product launch. As 3 p.m. Pacific approached, Musk tweeted that he actually meant Friday.
Since Thursday’s announcement turned out to be a dud, Greentech Media instead compiled a list of reasons to remain highly skeptical of this product until proven otherwise.
Nobody has made a solar roof work at scale
A little context on solar roofs: Many have swung at them, and nobody has hit it out of the park. Solar roofs as a category have not earned the benefit of the doubt.
The mainstream solar industry has achieved massive cost reductions via commodification and mass production. Solar roof tiles essentially reject that industrial success story, starting all over again at very small scale. Making matters worse, they historically have delivered worse efficiency in terms of converting sunlight to electricity. Solar roofs require a customer to pay more for a less effective product simply because it looks cleaner.