By Richard Waters in San Francisco
Musk makes case for integrated future of solar-powered homes and transport
Elon Musk renewed his efforts late on Friday to win over doubters of his planned acquisition of SolarCity, as he showed off solar systems made to look like conventional roofs and an upgrade to the residential battery made by his electric car company, Tesla Motors.
The Tesla chief executive described SolarCity as an important part of his long-term plan to create an integrated sustainable power company when he announced the $2.6bn offer earlier this year. However, many analysts and investors have questioned the deal, since Tesla is already in the midst of a highly ambitious attempt to bring out a mass-market electric car by late next year.
At an event in Los Angeles on Friday, Mr Musk tried again to make his case for an integrated future of solar-powered homes and transport, where solar electricity generated on the roof is stored in wall-mounted batteries to power the house outside daylight hours and recharge electric cars.
Central to the vision he showed off on Friday are new glass roofing tiles, made to resemble conventional roof materials and each containing a solar cell. Seen from the street, the tiles are made to resemble slate, terracotta or other materials, but are designed to be transparent from above to let in sunlight.
The Tesla boss compared the attempt to make solar roof systems more visually appealing to advances in electric cars. “We really have to make solar panels as attractive as electric cars have become,” he said. “The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than normal roofs, generate electricity, last longer … and have an installed cost that is lower. So why would you buy anything else?”
However, he gave no details about when the solar roofs would be available or how much they would cost, and a note on Tesla’s website said only that “orders will begin soon”.
The lack of detail and the fact that the company has not started taking pre-orders yet suggests it is still some way from bringing the solar roof tiles to market: Tesla began taking pre-orders for its forthcoming Model 3 before it unveiled the vehicle in March, even though the first cars are not due to roll off the production line until late next year.
At the same event, Mr Musk said Tesla would start selling a second-generation wall-mounted battery, called Powerwall, that would have twice the storage capacity of the first model, at 14 kWh. The battery would hold enough electricity to power the “fridge, sockets and lights” of a four-bedroom house for a day, he promised.
Earlier this month, Tesla said that if the SolarCity deal was approved, it would work with Panasonic on a new plant to produce battery cells in Buffalo, New York, that could be used in the solar energy storage systems.
Friday’s event came as Mr Musk prepares for a final bid to win over shareholders to the idea of combining Tesla and SolarCity. He has promised to give more financial details about the impact of the acquisition next Tuesday, with shareholders of both companies due to vote on the deal on November 17.
LG Chem of South Korea this week pre-empted Mr Musk’s latest solar announcement by unveiling an agreement with US solar company Sunrun to also sell residential systems that combine rooftop solar and energy storage.
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