Musk has previously shut down the idea of electric vehicles with solar panels, and for good reason: the surface of the panels isn’t large enough to generate sufficient electricity to warrant the additional cost. In other words, customers would be paying more for the panels than they’d be worth in terms of cutting running costs. This would change with a van, he explains.
“Now, a van, because you have a big, flat area, that’s actually where solar could start to make a little more sense. You know, because you have a lot of area,” Musk says. “You could also have, maybe, a roof where it is solar, and then, when it is stationary, [the roof] goes out and provides shade, and maybe triples your area or something like that. Now, you triple the area, and you have a big, flat surface, you could maybe start charging enough where you start getting like 30 miles [48.2 km] a day.”
Put it differently, you could add an awning that would serve a two-fold purpose: increase the surface of solar panels and provide shade. Theoretically, this would work and it would make the van completely independent. “Even if the apocalypse happens,” Musk jokes.
Then again, if the apocalypse does happen, a van is not the ideal escape vehicle, regardless of whether it’s made by Tesla or not. The Cybertruck is.