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Why the Tesla 3 Doesn’t Have a Solar Roof

Posted by admin on Aug 09, 2017

It’s official. The Tesla 3 does not and will not have a solar roof in the foreseeable future. Nor will any other car. Why? Elon Reeve Musk, Tesla’s CEO and product architect, recently explained why at the 2017 National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island.

Solar Panel Problems

Responding to a question from Vermont Governor Phil Scott about the feasibility of car rooftop solar panels, Musk stated that putting solar panels on a car is “not that helpful, because the actual surface of the car is not that much, and cars are often inside. The least efficient place to put solar is on the car.” This despite Tesla’s controversial 2016 merger with SolarCity Corporation, the San Mateo, California, company that markets and installs commercial and residential solar panels.

Today’s commercially viable panels require a good deal of surface space since they only absorb about 20 percent of the sun’s radiation. The $130,000 Karma Revero’s rooftop solar panels provide less than two miles of range. Toyota’s plan to install small rooftop panels on its cars has been waylaid by American rollover crash tests. Obviously a roof panel made of glass does not do at all well in a crash.

Solar Wrap Problems

Governor Scott next asked about the feasibility of putting some sort of a solar wrap around cars. Musk responded by saying that such an option wouldn’t work either due to the fact that such a wrap would need to be thin and flexible, making it less efficient. Today’s rooftop panels not only are prohibitively expensive, but also heavy. Each panel weighs 2-4 pounds per square foot, making panels far too heavy for aluminum or plastic car body exteriors to bear.

A Three-legged Stool

Musk explained that the three legs to the renewable energy car stool are the following:

  1. Solar power
  2. Stationary battery pack
  3. Electric cars

“With those three things,” said Musk, “you can have a completely sustainable energy future.”

Overall U.S. Solar Power Feasibility

Musk posited that any grand plan to power the United States via solar energy must include personal rooftop solar panels and “utility scale solar” produced by major solar farms that feed into massive batteries that store power for peak-use hours. Tesla soon will be selling rooftop panels for $21.85 per square foot.

According to Musk, the vision of a solar-powered America does not include covering the Tesla 3 or any other vehicle with solar panels. Rather, the better plan is to stay the course with solar roofs on homes and/or commercial properties, not cars, although putting battery packs on cars is a workable idea.

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