We’re going to have to wait a little longer for Tesla Inc.’s solar roof to go into volume production. Almost two years after Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk unveiled the roof, Tesla on Wednesday acknowledged its “complexity.” The company is still iterating the product’s design and refining the installation process.
Tesla now plans to ramp up “production more quickly during the first half of 2019,” a delay from almost three months ago when it said that was expected “toward the end” of this year. And even that was a slight change from May, when it anticipated that production “should accelerate significantly in the second half” of 2018.
“That’s quite a long development cycle because anything that’s roof has got to last 30 years,” Musk said late Wednesday evening on Tesla’s third-quarter earnings call. “There’s a lot of engineering — not just in the tile, but in the way it’s done.”
When the roof was unveiled in October 2016, a SolarCity executive said the shingles could eventually account for 5 percent of the 5 million roofs installed each year in the U.S. The following month Tesla completed its acquisition of SolarCity, then the biggest U.S. rooftop solar-panel installer.
But the roof may prove to be a niche product, and not just because of the lengthy development process. Another reason: cost.
Bloomberg NEF has estimated that a Tesla roof could cost about $57,000 for a 2,000-square-foot house, compared to about $41,000 for terracotta tiles and a 5-kilowatt solar system. A conventional asphalt roof with solar panels runs about $22,000.
“We’ve seen solar-shingle products fail in the past,” said Hugh Bromley, a New York-based analyst at BNEF. “I don’t think there’s an easy element to introducing this sort of product to a commoditized industry.”