Late last week, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk held a press conference whose underlying message was support for the proposed combination of Tesla with solar installer SolarCity.
Musk’s cousin Lyndon Rive runs SolarCity and Musk sits on its board, but the proposed acquisition has been criticized by analysts as a distraction for the electric car company, and financially disadvantageous.
Nonetheless, Musk rolled out a Tesla Powerwall 2.0 home energy-storage battery and described how it would interact with a new product from SolarCity.
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Those are small photovoltaic solar panels in the form of roof tiles, said to be both more durable and less obvious than larger conventional solar panels.
The solar units are designed to mimic four popular styles of roof tiles.
To demonstrate their durability, Musk played a video (below) showing a heavy weight being dropped onto one of the solar tiles.
SolarCity roof tile-replacing solar panels
The solar panel survived unscathed, while the same heavy weight destroyed ordinary conventional roof tiles—which is why most North American house use asphalt shingles on their roofs, rather than tiles.
SolarCity’s new photovoltaic tiles will be built at the company’s plant in Buffalo, New York. Tesla’s battery partner (and part owner) Panasonic will do the actual manufacturing at the site.
Musk didn’t specify either pricing or availability, though he suggested that the panels would make sense for anyone putting a new roof on a home.
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As for the new Powerwall, designated Generation 2.0, it not only has a new look but doubles the capacity of the first Powerwall it unveiled in May 2015.
The Powerwall 2.0 holds 14.0 kilowatt-hours of energy, compared to 7.0 kwh for the original. (A 10-kwh Powerwall was also offered, but it was canceled in May of this year.)
The price is $5,500, and deliveries will start in early December.
Tesla Powerwall 2.0
According to Musk, a fully charged Powerwall 2.0 will power the lights, electrical outlets, and the refrigerator of a four-bedroom house for a full day. Multiple units can be linked for additional storage.
The average U.S. household used 29.6 kwh a day in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
Tesla also announced updates to its commercial Powerpack energy-storage offerings, now being built at the Tesla gigafactory outside Reno, Nevada. They now have twice the energy density, a new inverter, and other improvements to the power electronics.
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In June, when the combination of Tesla and SolarCity was first announced, the goal was to make Tesla into the “world’s only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products to our customers.”
Musk envisions solar panels generating electricity that charges both home energy-storage batteries and Tesla electric cars.
But the switch to electric cars, he said, will boost overall energy demand to the point that roughly one-third will come from localized solar panels, but the remaining two-thirds will have to be generated by traditional utilities.
SolarCity shareholders will vote on the proposed acquisition by Tesla on November 17.
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