Should Tesla, NIO Worry about Hyundai’s Solar Roof Car?

Hyundai has launched a car with a solar roof, adding to the competition in the EV (electric vehicle) space for Tesla and NIO.

Mohit Oberoi, CFA - Author

Aug. 6 2019, Updated 11:36 a.m. ET

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  • Hyundai has launched a car with a solar roof, adding to the competition in the EV (electric vehicle) space for Tesla and NIO.

Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata Hybrid has a solar roof. According to ZigWheels, “The Sonata Hybrid launched in the US comes with a gigantic solar panel that’s integrated into the roof for recharging the battery on the move. Seen for the first time on a mainstream model, Hyundai claims that six hours of daily charging through the solar roof system can extend the car’s range by 1300km annually.” The panels charge both while the car is moving and stationary.

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What should Tesla make of the news?

Integrating solar cells in a car isn’t new—Toyota features solar cells in its Prius. And 1,300 kilometers annually (about 870 miles) is less than four kilometers (2.5 miles) per day, which hardly moves the needle for most drivers. Therefore, based on the Sonata Hybrid’s charging capacity, EV makers such as Tesla (TSLA) and NIO (NIO) shouldn’t be too concerned.

However, hybrid models with solar charging do offer some perks. New versions of plug-in hybrid Toyota’s Prius can charge even when moving, and hybrids’ driving range has increased. Hybrid cars with considerable solar charging capacity could be a threat to pure-play EVs. Whereas Tesla and NIO stocks are deep in the red this year, General Motors (GM) and Ford have risen 26.6% and 19.0%, respectively.

Tesla also offers a solar roof

This year, energy products have been a focus for Tesla, which offers a solar roof. Last week, Elon Musk tweeted, “Spooling up production line rapidly. Hoping to manufacture ~1000 solar roofs/week by end of this year.” The company is also reportedly planning to install a solar roof at its Fremont plant, and has launched a utility-grade battery as an alternative to “peaker” power plants.

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Tesla brings back free unlimited Supercharging

On Saturday, Tesla relaunched its free unlimited Supercharging for new Model S and Model X cars. While Model 3 sales have increased multifold over the last year, Model S/X sales have stalled. The company no longer provides individual Model S/X deliveries. Musk sees the Model 3 and the upcoming Model Y as Tesla’s long-term drivers.

Competition has been growing

Musk has often slammed the automotive industry for being slow in the EV race. In an interview last month, he said that the auto industry “is just fairly slow to evolve, and it didn’t take electric vehicles really seriously until 2015, maybe 2014 you could say.” Musk has also equaled having other carmakers’ products to “owning a horse.”

Meanwhile, legacy automakers have also upped their game. Ford’s (F) F-150 all-electric prototype video shows that the model’s towing capacity exceeds Tesla’s upcoming pickup’s capacity. Luxury automakers have also been looking at the EV space.


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