There are two things in which Elon Musk is an undisputed champion: creating hype and buzz for massively cash-flow burning products and companies, and abusing every possible loophole in the US tax code to get explicit and implicit subsidies from the government. He demonstrated the latter on Wednesday, when Tesla began taking orders for its solar roof tiles, a cornerstone strategy of Elon Musk's strategy to sell a "green", fossil-fuel-free lifestyle under the brand name of its luxury electric vehicles.
First the bad news: Tesla said the product, which generates solar energy without the need for traditional rooftop panels - assuming one lives in a traditionally sunny climate - will be substantially pricier than a conventional roof but don't worry, it will "look better" and ultimately pay for itself through reduced electricity costs... it just may take 20 or more years for the payback period to occur (more on the math below).
Made with tempered glass, Tesla assures that "Solar Roof tiles are more than three times stronger than standard roofing tiles" and is why the company offers the "best warranty in the industry - the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first." There is just one problem: most Americans live in their house less than a decade before they end up selling it and moving to a different roof, which means that the vast majority of Americans who end up buying the new Tesla product offering will have moved out of their home long before the investment pays back for itself.
The solar roof tiles were unveiled in October as Musk sought to convince shareholders of the benefits of combining his electric vehicle maker with SolarCity, the solar installer run by his cousins. Tesla acquired SolarCity in November, and has been working to remake a money-losing company that was selling traditional solar systems into a premium energy brand. To date, other companies have had little market success with attempts to incorporate solar technology directly into roof tiles. It remains unclear whether the products will appeal to consumers as much as Tesla's electric vehicles do.
Being a Tesla product, esthetics are perhaps the most important variable, and as shown in the images below, the roofs are certainly pretty and comes in four different formats:
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