I was watching a video about Tesla’s frankly fraudulent solar roof project and I thought “this is bonkers.” People are spending $100,000 for a solar roof and battery system which I’ve got for less than $20,000. New York state paid $750,000 million to create solar jobs that never materialized, Tesla just kept importing panels from China.
Tesla’s Solar City honestly looks a lot like Theranos. Theranos sold this song and dance about pinpricks of blood and proprietary technology, and just ran tests on old Siemens machines. In the same way, Tesla announced these beautiful solar panels that looked like roof tiles, but what they mostly install is regular, imported panels.
It’s a farce, and honestly rises to fraud, but who cares? The whole American economy is a ‘bezzle’ and Elon Musk is just the most dazzling bezzler.
In the video the Solar City customers who waited months or years, saw their prices go up, and didn’t get anything near what they were sold, even those people are still fans. They literally said “Please Uncle Elon, we love you man. Please, get this right.” It’s truly bonkers.
The fact is that everything Elon Musk produces or does has been done better, cheaper, and at a larger scale somewhere else. China dominates the solar roof market, is the largest electric car producer and user, and has just launched a whole-ass space station. Russia was sending American astronauts and cargo into space for decades, India sent probes to Mars with amazing efficiency, and all of this tech is anyways decades old.
Elon Musk didn’t invent any of this. He just added some needless but sexy frills, branded the whole thing, and sold it to Americans. He’s a master marketer, not an innovator. They said that software would eat the world, but they’re wrong. Marketing has just eaten Americans’ brains, while the world proceeds as usual.
Take Tesla’s solar panels, please. I was excited when Elon Musk rented out the old Desperate Housewives neighborhood to announce these sexy solar tiles, but it was all a show. He was really just buying out his cousins’ company to keep that from impacting his bigger fraud, and the American press and public are nothing but distractable.
As that CNBC video said, “But “five years in, Musk has yet to deliver on the promise of scaling the solar business or making the Solar Roof a dominant product. Most of the installs being done today are still traditional solar panels.”
Not only that, but Solar City has actually lost market share, going from a third of US residential solar installs to less than 2%. For anybody else that’d be an abject failure, but people are still blinded by the bullshit branding. Dude, but they’re solar tiles, aren’t they beautiful?
The real point is who fucking cares? Solar panels are on your roof. We spent around $14,000 for a solar install in 2017 which I’ve literally never seen. It just feeds power back onto the grid and we’ve never paid an electricity bill since. Recently we got a battery system for $4,000 which looks ugly as shit—it looks like a bunch of giant car batteries in the garage—but it does the job. And this is in Sri Lanka. China already produces 60% of solar energy and 80% of solar panels, including many of the ones Solar City installs. This technology is already all over the world, while Americans wait for Elon Musk to make it look cool.
The trouble is that Musk’s efforts to make stuff cool also make it practically difficult or downright impossible. Making a solar panel look not like a solar panel is very complicated and only decreases its effectiveness at being a fucking solar panel. It also makes it expensive, hard to install, and also downright not exist because it’s so difficult. It’s just a triumph of the marketing brochure over engineering, and in the end engineering wins by default. The thing just isn’t practical, and they install ordinary solar panels.
Then take Tesla cars. They are big, sexy vehicles that go insanely fast, can sorta drive themselves, and let you play games on the giant touchscreens. And yet none of this is necessary. It’s another triumph of marketing over engineering. The best electric vehicle is a fucking train, which can go even faster, is effectively self-driving, and lets you play games or sleep as much as you want.
Elon Musk has just greenwashed the car, which is the basic technology killing the planet, whether you change the engine or not. The future, if we have one, needs to be public transport, bicycles, and perhaps lightly armored vehicles like electric trishaws, not two-ton hunks of steel and lithium which let rich people feel good while still being assholes.
And this is what Musk sells. Not a solution but absolution. The idea that you can keep doing everything exactly the same and be absolved of all climate guilt because you have an electric car. It doesn’t work like that. You may have to sit next to poor people (shudder) on the bus.
Even if we are talking about electric cars, 50% of them are produced under many brands in China, compared to just 8% in America, where Tesla is most popular. When I went to China 10 years ago I saw a bunch of electric wheelchairs (essentially) and small transport vehicles, and they’ve obviously gotten more sophisticated. More importantly, they have electrified train and metro networks which move far more bodies.
Even in India Mahindra is producing electric three wheelers, lightly armored but highly practical vehicles that can move people and goods. Meanwhile Musk is marketing the Cybertruck, a monstrosity that moves far more metal than humans or goods. Just have a look at the weight differential, it’s criminal.
Teslas are essentially toys for grown-up children, who want to play with trucks and roadsters and go vroom-vroom. The real electric car revolution is boring, doesn’t even look like cars, and is happening elsewhere in the world.
In truth, Tesla isn’t even Tesla. Nikola Tesla was an amazingly innovative inventor who pioneered the use of electricity and was working on wireless electricity and communications before he ran out of money. Elon Musk just took his name to run a bezzle that never seems to run out of money, while not actually producing much new.
Note that I’m not saying that Tesla products aren’t cool, I’m just saying they’re superficial at best and at worst downright fraudulent. They’re certainly not worth the valuation, they’re not saving the planet, and they're not worth having this dude’s tweets inflicted on the world. The fact is that the rest of the world is already electrifying, solarizing, and sending people to space with much less fanfare. Elon Musk is just a master marketer, and ultimately masturbatory in terms of results.