Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk is giving solar-powered homes a serious uplift. Last Friday night in Los Angeles, the ever-radical tech bigwig revealed the company’s latest project: its own line of sleek “rooftop solar tiles,” along with complementary upgrades to Tesla’s Powerwall home batteries.
With its multi-billion dollar acquisition of leading solar energy provider SolarCity in progress, Tesla has been leading the charge in a burgeoning industry. And a future of PV-integrated roofs—an idea already being explored in tiny houses and electric cars—has also been a much-teased component of the company’s grand plans. Now, we have a closer look at that vision. UPDATE: On Friday, March 24, 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the company will start taking orders for its rooftop solar tiles in April. However, pricing details and timeline for delivery have not been disclosed.
Below, five key things to know about Musk’s recent reveal.
1. These definitely don’t look like regular rooftop solar panels
A big draw of these Tesla panels is their inconspicuous aesthetic. Musk unveiled four different types of glass panels integrated with solar cells, ranging from a Tuscan glass tile to a textured glass tile. To the unsuspecting eye, they look just like conventional roof tiling. In fact, Musk chose to showcase the tiles on the Desperate Housewives set at Universal Studios, suggesting just how easily they can be integrated into the standard American home.
2. They’re pretty strong
During his presentation, Musk demonstrated the strength of the tiles with a video showing a drop test. The glass tiles are stronger than materials such as clay and slate, according to Musk, who added that since “it’s made of quartz, it has a quasi-infinite lifetime.”
3. There’s minimal sacrifice in efficiency
Musk claims his glass tiles are 98 percent as efficient as traditional rooftop solar panels so they should be able to produce nearly the same amount of energy.
4. The roof is meant to complement the Powerwall
These new solar roof tiles are designed to work with Tesla’s Powerwall batteries, which also got an upgrade. The Powerwall 2 can store 14 kWh of energy, with a 5 kW continuous power draw, and 7 kW peak—enough to power an entire home and an electric car. The battery is crucial for electricity storage, and when combined with the solar tiles, will get you off the grid.
5. Price details aren’t available (yet)
Details on how to install the actual roof weren’t mentioned either. But according to Musk, the cost of these panels will still be cheaper than the cost of a normal roof plus electricity. He says these panels will be available for installation beginning in the summer of 2017.