Loliware’s kelp-based plastic alternatives snag $6M seed round from eco-conscious investors

The last few years have seen many cities ban plastic bags, plastic straws and other common forms of waste, giving environmentally conscious alternatives a huge boost — among them Loliware, purveyor of fine disposable goods created from kelp. Huge demand and smart sourcing has attracted a big first funding round.

I covered Loliware early on when it was one of the first companies to be invested in by the Ocean Solutions Accelerator, a program started in 2017 by the nonprofit Sustainable Ocean Alliance. Founder Chelsea “Sea” Briganti told me about the new funding on the SOA’s strange yet quite successful “Accelerator at Sea” program late last year.

The company makes straws primarily, with other products planned, out of kelp matter. Kelp, if you’re not familiar, is a common type of aquatic algae (also called seaweed) that can grow quite large and is known for its robustness. It also grows in vast, vast quantities in many coastal locations, creating “kelp forests” that sustain entire ecosystems. Intelligent stewardship of these fast-growing kelp stocks could make them a significantly better source than corn or paper, which are currently used to create most biodegradable straws.

A proprietary process turns the kelp into straws that feel plastic-like but degrade simply (and not in your hot drink — it can stand considerably more exposure than corn and paper-based straws). Naturally the taste, desirable in some circumstances but not when drinking a seltzer, is also removed.

It took a lot of R&D and fine-tuning, Briganti told me:

“None of this has ever been done before. We led all development from material technology to new-to-world engineering of machinery and manufacturing practices. This way we ensure all aspects of the product’s development are truly scalable.”

They’ve gone through more than a thousand prototypes and are continuing to iterate as advances make possible things like higher flexibility or different shapes.

“Ultimately our material is a massive departure from the paradigms with which other companies are approaching the development of biodegradable materials,” she said. “They start with a problematic, last-forever, fossil fuel-derived paradigm and try to make it not so bad — this is step-change development and too slow and frumpy to truly make an impact.”

Of course it doesn’t matter how good your process is if no one is buying it, a fact that plagues many ethics-first operations, but in fact demand has grown so fast that Loliware’s biggest challenge has been scaling to meet it. The company has gone from a few million to a hundred million in recent years to a projected billion straws shipping in 2020.

“It takes us about 12 months to get to full automation [from the lab],” she said. “Once we get to full automation, we license the tech to a strategic plastic or paper manufacturer. Meaning, we do not manufacture billions of straws, or anything, in-house.”

It makes sense, of course, just as contracting out your PCB or plastic mold or what have you. Briganti wanted to have global impact, and that requires taking advantage of global infrastructure that’s already there.

Lastly, the consideration of a sustainable ecosystem was always important to Briganti, as the whole company is founded on the idea of reducing waste and using fundamentally ethical processes.

“Our products utilize a super-sustainable supply of seaweed, a supply that is overseen and regulated by local governments,” Briganti said. “In 2020, Loliware will launch the first-ever Algae Sustainability Council (ASC), which allows us to be at the helm of the design of these new global seaweed supply chain systems as well as establishing the oversight, ensuring sustainable practices and equitability. We are also pioneering what we have coined the ‘Zero Waste Circular Extraction Methodology,’ which will be a new paradigm in seaweed processing, utilizing every component of the biomass as it suggests.”

The $5.9 million “super seed” round has many investors, including several who were on board the ship in Alaska for the Accelerator at Sea this past October (as SOA Seabird Ventures). The CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee has invested, as have New York Ventures, Magic Hour, For Good VC, Hatzimemos/Libby, Geekdom Fund, HUmanCo VC, CityRock and Closed Loop Partners.

The money will be used for scaling and further R&D; Loliware plans to launch several new straw types (like a bent straw for juice boxes), a cup and a new utensil. 2020 may be the year you start seeing the company’s straws in your favorite coffee shop rather than a few early adopters here and there. You can keep track of where they can be found here at the company’s website.

Investors and utilities are seeding carbon markets with new startups

While most of the world agrees that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are creating a climate crisis, there’s little consensus regarding how to address it.

One of the solutions that’s both the most obvious and, seemingly, the most difficult for the international community to agree on is establishing a market that would put a price on carbon emissions. Making the cost of emissions palpable for industries would encourage companies to curb their polluting activities or pay to offset them.

The holy grail of a global carbon market — or a collection of regional ones — has been on the agenda for climate activists and regulators since the Kyoto Protocols were ratified in 1997, but enacting the policy has proven elusive.

Now, as the results of climate inaction become more apparent, there appears to be some movement on the regulatory front and concurrent activity from early-stage technology investors to make carbon offsets more of a reality.

It’s still early days, but startups like Project Wren, Pachama and Cloverly prove that investors and utilities are willing to take a flyer on companies that are trying to enable carbon offsets for consumers and corporations alike.

These small bets for investors are complemented by the potential for outsized returns given the size and scope that’s possible should these markets actually develop.

After years of languishing in relative obscurity, global carbon markets rebounded with vigor in 2017 and into 2018, according to data from the World Bank.

Countries raised about $44 billion in revenues from carbon pricing in 2018, an increase of $11 billion, with more than half coming from carbon taxes. In 2017, the $33 billion raised by governments from carbon pricing was an increase of 50% over 2016 numbers.

However large that number may seem, it’s dwarfed by the figure required to make any real changes in industry emissions, according to the World Bank. The current pricing schemes that exist cover a small percentage of global emissions at a cost that’s consistent with achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, the latest international treaty around climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Prices need to rise to between $40 per ton of carbon dioxide and $80 per ton by 2020 and between $50 per ton and $100 per ton by 2030.

Oceans of opportunity: surveying 2020’s seafaring startup potential

Space attracts a lot of attention as an area of frontier tech investment and entrepreneurship, but there’s another vast expanse that could actually be more addressable by the innovation economy — Earth’s oceans.

Seafaring startups aren’t attracting quite as much attention as their spacefaring cousins, but 2019 still saw a flurry of activity in this sector and 2020 could be an even big year for everything aquatic.

Sounding the depths of data collection

One big similarity between space tech and seafaring opportunities is that data collection represents a significant percent of the potential market. Data collection in and around Earth’s oceans has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to the availability, efficacy and cost of sensor technologies — in 2017, it was estimated that as much ocean data had been gathered in the past two years as in all of human history. But relatively speaking, that barely scratches the surface.

Ocean observation has largely been driven by scientific and research goals, which means there’s bound to be a pretty hard cap on available funding. But ocean data has value in all kinds of private’s sector pursuits, including the potential for autonomous commercial cargo transportation (more on that later), as well as predicting weather and climate conditions that impact shipping routes, agriculture and more.

Various methods exist for collecting data about Earth’s oceans, including space-based satellite observation. Startups like Terradepth, Saildrone and Promare have all proposed various autonomous seafaring data collection vehicle designs that could leverage robotics to bring ocean observation at scale closer to home. These firms are using technology that’s been made affordable for startup budgets through miniaturization and efficiency gains evolved through the progress of the smartphone and other computing industries.

This past year, Xprize awarded millions in prize money to teams that competed in the Ocean Discovery competition for autonomous ocean floor mapping, which is resulting in spin-out ventures that have a head start on success.

As in space, data collection and observation can take many forms, so we can expect to see many industry-specific approaches emerge to capitalize on what are surprisingly large market opportunities, even for seemingly narrow types of data. Continued efforts to refine and improve robotics technologies like sensing and vision should drive even more growth in autonomous ocean observation in 2020.

Autonomous logistics

Oceanfaring drones aren’t just about data collection, however; a huge portion of the global logistics market still relies on giant cargo vessels. The drive to automate container ships is nothing new, but it’s reaching a point where we’re actually starting to see autonomous cargo vehicles embark, including this Chinese cargo ship that set out from Guangdong at the end of this year and a ship called the Yara Birkeland has begun trials out of Rotterdam and expects to be operating fully autonomously by 2022.

VEnvirotech transforms organic waste into bioplastics

After a year of testing out environmental technologies for a private company, co-founder Patricia Ayma developed a process for bioplastic production using bacteria. The system turns organic matter, such as food waste, into a product that can be used as a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastics. “I realized that it was a simple technology for taking to society, that will benefit everyone,” she tells us.

The biotech startup began its pilot phase near Barcelona, at a BonArea supermarket plant, where they were able to develop and test the technology on an industrial scale with a potential customer. Ayma plans to push the innovation toward two sectors: Organic waste producers that want to shrink waste management costs and companies interested in purchasing the bioplastics for various applications.

The team recently closed an investment round of more than €2 million, which will allow them to open a 33,000-square-foot plant to start production on the VE-box: A portable waste management container that will transform organic waste into biodegradable plastics. 

 

Ford’s Mustang Mach-E all-electric SUV revealed in leaked photos, prices and configurations

Ford is officially debuting its fully electric crossover SUV on Saturday, November 17 – but we got a look at the new Mach-E (which was just officially named yesterday) a couple of days early. The leak comes from Ford’s own website, as screenshotted for posterity by Jalopnick, and includes photos of most angles of the car, including the interior, as well as pricing and configuration details for the model variants available at launch.

The Mach-E will start at $43,895 U.S., before any state or tax incentives are applied (and that turns into $36,395 once you apply the maximum $7,5000 Federal tax credit). The ‘Select’ trim Mach-E as configured at that price gets you 230 EPA-rated miles of range, either AWD or RWD (which presumably alters the price) and a 0-60MPH time in the mid 5-second range.

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Next up is the ‘Premium’ trim at starting at $50,600, again offering an AWD or RWD option, with 300 miles of estimated EPA-rated range, and that same mid 5-second 0-60MPH time. The ‘California Route 1’ model above that comes in only AWD, has that longer 300 miles of EPA range, and promises a mid 6-second 0-60MPH time. It’s a bit slower off the jump, but it’s “named for its cruise-worthy engineering,” so presumably it’s got a more luxe interior for long-distance highway scenic drives.

Next up is a $59,900 ‘First Edition,’ which will be in limited availability and only at launch for the first batch of customers to reserve. It’s got AWD, a range of around 270 miles, a mid 5-second 0-60MPH time and exclusive exterior color options, special scuff plates, brushed aluminum pedals and red brake callipers, as well as contrast-coloured interior stitching. There’s a GT edition at the top end, with an MSRP starting at $60,500, that will manage to get a 0-60MPH time in the mid 3-second range, so that’s clearly the peak performance options for thrill-seekers. Estimated EPA range on that one is around 230 miles.

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In terms of looks, the Mustang Mach-E’s design won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s seen the camouflaged spy shots, or the teaser peeks officially released by Ford. It’s definitely got Mustang vibes, and looks a bit like a Mustang that has been lifted up with paneling extended down towards the road. It looks like a panorama roof is an option, and that hatchback will probably please a lot of small SUV fans. There’s also something funky going on with the door handles – the front ones appear very small and near the base of the door windows, while I’m not sure how exactly it works on the rear passenger doors based on these photos.

There’s also a panoramic sunroof at least as an option, and you can see the interior looks pretty blatantly Tesla -inspired, with a large vertical touchscreen taking up most of the center of the dash – albeit with something that looks like a large physical dial right at the base, instead of going for fully touch-only input. A second digital display appears to replace the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel.

Ford has since taken this down, since it’s hosting a splashy event on Saturday with Idris Elba in LA for the full official reveal. TechCrunch will be on site to bring you more photos and details around availability, customization options and more on the day.

Recycling robots raise millions from top venture firms to rescue an industry in turmoil

The problem of how to find the potential treasure trove hidden in millions of pounds of trash is getting a high-tech answer as investors funnel $16 million into the recycling robots built by Denver-based AMP Robotics.

For recyclers, the commercialization of robots tackling industry problems couldn’t come at a better time. Their once-stable business has been turned on its head by trade wars and low unemployment.

Recycling businesses used to be able to rely on China to buy up any waste stream (no matter the quality of the material). However, about two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries. The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively.

At the same time, low unemployment rates are putting the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where humans are basically required to hand-sort garbage into recyclable materials and trash.

Given the economic reality, recyclers are turning to AMP’s technology — a combination of computer vision, machine learning and robotic automation to improve efficiencies at their facilities.

trash cans

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Abulla Al Muhairi

That’s what attracted Sequoia Capital to lead the company’s latest investment round — a $16 million Series A investment the company will use to expand its manufacturing capacity and boost growth as it looks to expand into international markets.

“We are excited to partner with AMP because their technology is changing the economics of the recycling
industry,” said Shaun Maguire, partner at Sequoia, in a statement. “Over the last few years, the industry has had their margins squeezed by labor shortages and low commodity prices. The end result is an industry proactively searching for cost-saving alternatives and added opportunities to increase revenue by capturing more high-value recyclables, and AMP is emerging as the leading solution.”

The funding will be used to “broaden the scope of what we’re going after,” says chief executive Matanya Horowitz. Beyond reducing sorting costs and improving the quality of the materials that recycling facilities can ship to buyers, the company’s computer vision technologies can actually help identify branded packaging and be used by companies to improve their own product life cycle management.

“We can identify… whether it’s a Coke or Pepsi can or a Starbucks cup,” says Horowitz. “So that people can help design their product for circularity… we’re building out our reporting capabilities and that, to them, is something that is of high interest.”

That combination of robotics, computer vision and machine learning has potential applications beyond the recycling industry as well, according to Horowitz. Automotive scrap and construction waste are other areas where the company has seen interest for its combination of software and hardware.

Meanwhile, the core business of recycling is picking up. In October, the company completed the installation of 14 robots at Single Stream Recyclers in Florida. It’s the largest single deployment of robots in the recycling industry and the robots, which can sort and pick twice as fast as people with higher degrees of accuracy, are installed at sorting lines for plastics, cartons, fiber and metals, the company said.

AMP’s business has two separate revenue streams — a robotics as a service offering and a direct sales option — and the company has made other installations at sites in California, Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The traction the company is seeing in its core business was validating for early investors like BV, Closed Loop Partners, Congruent Ventures and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, the Alphabet subsidiary’s new spin-out that invests in technologies to support new infrastructure projects.

For Mike DeLucia, the Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners principal who led the company’s investment into AMP Robotics, the deal is indicative of where his firm will look to commit capital going forward.

“It’s a technology that enables physical assets to operate more efficiently,” he says. “Our goal is to find the technologies that enable really exciting infrastructure projects, back them and work with them to deliver projects in the physical world.”

Investors like DeLucia and Abe Yokell, from the investment firm Congruent Ventures, think that recycling is just the beginning. Applications abound for AMP Robotic’s machine learning and computer vision technologies in areas far beyond the recycling center.

“When you think about how technology is able to impact the built environment, one area is machine vision,” says Yokell. “[Machine learning] neural nets can apply to real-world environments, and that stuff has gotten cheaper and easier to deploy.”

Lyft deploys 200 long-range EVs for its rideshare rental fleet in Colorado

Lyft is making 200 new long-range EVs available to rideshare drivers as part of its Express Drive program, the company revealed today. Express Drive is a program that Lyft offers to provide rental cars to drivers on its platform, as an alternative to options like long-term leasing. Express Drive members get unlimited miles, as well as included insurance, maintenance and roadside service, with the ability to return the car after a rental period of as little as just a week.

These 200 new EVs (all Kia vehicles for this particular deployment, Lyft tells me) will be available to Express Drive Lyft drivers in December, and the rideshare company says that this is “the largest single deployment of EVs in Colorado’s history” – and there’s good financial reasoning for the timing of Lyft’s introduction of the program – in May, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill into law that provides rental programs for rideshare operators with the same incentives that it provides consumers at the state level: as much as $5,000 per car purchased.

EV deployments of this nature have benefits across all aspects of the rideshare economy: Lower operating costs for drivers are one immediate effect, for instance and Lyft says that it’s seen costs drop between $70 to $100 for drivers on average based on existing EV fleet deployments in both Seattle and Atlanta. For cities and residents, it’s obviously beneficial in terms of lowering net emissions resulting from cars on the road. The jury is still out on whether rideshare and ride-haling programs ultimately decrease the total number of cars on the roads, but if programs like this can speed the adoption of EVs and ensure they represent a higher percentage of the mix of vehicles that are driving around cities, that’s a net win.

Large fleets of EVs in operation also provide incentives for infrastructure operators to ensure that there’s a good charging network on the ground for these vehicles to take advantage of. That, in turn, means that the infrastructure is present for consumers to take advantage of, which helps with the general EV adoption curve.

Lyft also says it’s aiming to “electrify more of the Lyft fleet each year moving forward,” so expect additional cities and fleet deployments to follow as it works on those goals.

UCLA now has the first zero-emission, all-electric mobile surgical instrument lab

Electrification in the automotive industry isn’t just about consumer cars: There are plenty of commercial and specialist vehicles that are prime candidates for EVs, including in the healthcare industry. Take the new UCLA mobile surgical lab developed by Winnebago, for instance — it’s a zero-emission, all-electric vehicle that will move back and forth between two UCLA campuses, collecting, sterilizing and repairing surgical instruments for the medical staff there.

Why is that even needed? The usual process is sending out surgical instruments for this kind of service by a third-party, and it’s handled in a dedicated facility at a significant annual cost. UCLA Health Center estimates that it can save as much as $750,000 per year using the EV lab from Winnebago instead.

The traveling lab can operate for around eight hours, including round-trips between the two hospital campuses, or for a total distance traveled of between 85 and 125 miles on a single charge of its battery, depending on usage. It also offers “the same level of performance, productivity and compliance” as a lab in a fixed-location building, according to Winnebago.

Aside from annual savings on operating costs, UCLA also got some discounts toward the purchase of the lab from a few grant programs, including the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (an admitted mouthful, but it does have its own acronym luckily — HVIP). These programs all encourage the adoption of electric vehicles through financial incentives that help defray the upfront costs, which is yet another good reason for industries like healthcare to look at EVs as a way to not only reduce costs long term, but upfront as well.

Supercross’s anticipated EV class not ready for primetime in 2020

Motorcycle racing series Supercross isn’t quite ready to add an EV class.

The sport — where riders race high-performance machines on jump-filled stadium tracks — currently fields only gas-powered two-wheelers.

Supercross was poised to launch an all-electric class this month, by converting its junior program to a new e-moto manufactured by KTM — Supercross Director of Operations Dave Prater told TechCrunch in April.

“We haven’t one-hundred-percented it yet, but it’s fairly close and we’re…going to race that electric KTM in October,” he said.

That won’t likely happen for the upcoming 2020 season, but input from Supercross and KTM indicates the launch of a junior EV class could be imminent.

On why it didn’t kick-off in October, “That would be a KTM question,” Prater told TechCrunch on a call this week.

“As a company, we’re embracing EV racing. At the moment, we’re beholden to the OEM’s and how quickly they want to introduce it into the mix,” he added.

The first-mover OEM could still be KTM and the first electric class the juniors.

“The KTM Junior racing in Supercross is an incredible experience for a small group of kids and their parents. At some point we might start using the SX-E5,” KTM’s Group Marketing Manager for North America Tom Moen told TechCrunch in an email.

“We can’t have them racing something that is not readily available,” he added.

KTM SX E 5 2020KTM’s SX-E5 launched in the U.S. this month, but won’t be available in dealerships until late November, according to Moen.

So for now, there appears to be a timing gap between Supercross and KTM.

Another area to watch for the introduction of e-moto competition — according to Moen — is outdoor dirt series Motocross, the rules of which (like Supercross) are governed by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

“The AMA…is working on classes for the AMA Loretta Lynn’s championships for 2020, which is the national amateur MX series, the finals happen late summer, this is much more important racing wise,” Moen said.

TechCrunch has an inquiry into AMA for confirmation and will update accordingly.

One hurdle to entering electric motorcycles in AMA gas racing is how to classify battery powered two-wheelers compared to internal combustion engines that the AMA classes based on displacement, AMA off-road racing manager Erek Kudla explained to TechCrunch in April.

The other potentially larger hurdle (as Supercross’s Dave Prater alluded to) is the lack of an OEM-produced competition e-moto capable of racing at or near the specs of the high-performance gas machines that run in Supercross and Motocross.

California based EV startup Alta Motors had come the closest toward creating an e-moto toward that endeavor, but went bankrupt before getting there.

In addition to its junior SX-E5, KTM debuted its Freeride E-XC adult off-road e-motorcycle in the U.S. in 2018, but KTM didn’t indicate if this was the bike it was planning to reconfigure for motocross.

For the moment, it looks like seven to eight-year-olds racing KTM’s SX-E5 in Supercross could be the nearest bet for EV motorcycle competition.

And Supercross creating an all EV junior class has a spot of relevance in the overall transformation of global mobility — namely the conversion of the motorcycle industry to electric.

Factors such as declining sales among young people and competitive pressure from EV startups are pushing the big names toward E offerings. Harley-Davidson launched its first e-moto, the $29K  LiveWire, this year as part of a full EV pivot.

Zero Motorcycles is challenging HD with its new $19K SR/F.  And rumors have floated on Ducati developing an e-moto, after the Italian company debuted two e-bicycles.

Harley and e-moto companies such as Zero have spoken of the importance of early adopters to embrace e-motorcycles. Harley made moves this year to reach the earliest of early adopters when it acquired kids e-bicycle company StaCyc.

Launching one of motorcycle racing’s first all-electric classes with juniors and pairing it to Supercross’s stadium venues could become more than an EV gateway for OEM KTM.

It could actually start young riders on e-motos before they’ve ever ridden gas and keep them running on voltage into teen and adult years.

For the motorcycle industry at large, that means creating a future EV market versus trying convert one with preferences set in fossil-fuel the past.

 

Tesla’s new Solar Roof costs less than a new roof plus solar panels, aims for install rate of 1K per week

Tesla has launched the third iteration of its solar roof tile for residential home use, which it officially detailed in a blog post on Friday and in a call with media. Tesla CEO Elon Musk kicked off the call with some explanatory remarks on the V3 Solar Roof, and then took a number of questions. The company says it’ll begin installations in the coming weeks (Musk says some installations have already begun) and that it hopes to ramp production to as many as 1,000 new roofs per week.

Tesla’s solar roof tiles — which are designed to look just like normal roof tiles when installed on a house, while doubling as solar panels to generate power — are something of a work-in-progress. The company is still tinkering with the product three years after announcing the concept, having done trial installations with two different iterations so far. “Versions one and two we were still figuring things out,” said Elon Musk on an earnings call earlier this week, adding that he thinks “version three is finally ready for the big time.”

Tesla’s Solar Roof website now includes a pricing estimator, which lists $42,500 as the total price for the average 2,000 square-foot home, with 10kW solar panels. It also lists $33,950 as the price after an $8,550 federal tax incentive. You can also enter your address and get an updated estimate that takes into account local costs and incentives, and add on any Powerwalls (with 3 as the default for a 2,000 square-foot roof).

“The solarglass roof is is not going to make financial sense for somebody who has a relatively new roof, because this is itself a roof, that has integrated solar power generation,” Musk explained, but went on to note that Tesla has managed with this version three product to achieve a price point which is “less than what the average roof costs, plus the solar panels” that you would add on top of said roof.

“Figuring out how to install it effectively is very non-trivial. And we’re actually going to have […] kind of ‘installations,'” Musk said, which will pit two teams against each other to see who can roof one of two similar sized/designed roofs faster. Musk reiterated later that there’s “quite a bit of R&D just in the installation process itself.”

Musk also said that while it’s hiring and training specialized installers at first, the plan is to ultimately expand installations to any third-party contractors as well. On the call, he and the Tesla team discussed how they focused on getting the installation time down to where it’s faster than installing traditional shingles, plus solar panels on top of that. Musk added that his ultimate goal is to install the solar glass tiles even faster than comparative shingles. This is a significant change from V2 of the solar roof, Musk later said.

“We’re doing installations as fast as we possibly can, starting in the next few weeks,” Musk said about availability, adding that the goal is to “get to 1,000 roofs per week” sometime in “the next several months.”

A report from CNBC from September 2018 found that Tesla still hadn’t performed many actual installations of its solar roof tile, despite the two-year gap between announcement and the date of their investigation, and a January announcement about the initiation of solar roof tile production at Tesla’s Buffalo-based Gigafactory. During the company’s annual general shareholder meeting in June, Musk said that the third iteration of the tile was being worked on, and while he didn’t detail the actual number of installations, he did say that they were in progress in eight different states across the U.S. at that point.

Musk addressed some of the production delays to date, addressing the installation complexity of previous generations, but also citing the Tesla Model 3 production ramp, which he said “really stripped resources from solar for a year or a year and a half.” Now that Model 3 production is in a good place, Musk said that that has unblocked significantly some of the company’s ability to focus on this challenge.

The total addressable market that Musk sees for this product is somewhere on the order of 100 million houses worldwide, and Musk stressed that the company does indeed intend to make this available worldwide.

While at launch, there will be only one available look for the Solar Roof, the Tesla CEO also said that the company will roll out additional variants as quickly as it can, including tiles that resemble clay and other alternatives.

The tiles and roof installation carry a warranty of 25 years, which includes their protective weatherization (including 130 MPH wind resistance) and their power generation capability. On balance, the Solar Roof provides more energy generation than a similarly-sized roof retrofitted with traditional tiles, though individually, the tile’s power-gathering cells themselves are less energy efficient than a traditional solar cell. The Solar Roof is better performing, however, because it covers more surface area of a home.