While Elon Musk is turning heads by promising futuristic solar roof tiles that will blend into your home for the price of a Tesla car, Ikea brought a more mainstream-friendly solar solution to market in the U.K.
Ikea is selling a $9,000 battery and solar panel kit that, while not as fancy as Tesla’s $50,000+ roof, is available today and promises to pay for itself within 12 years. That’s right: the world’s biggest furniture company, itself responsible for using 1% of the world’s commercial lumber, wants to make converting to solar as simple and affordable as Ikea-furnishing a house. Or free, if you use it long enough.
But for Ikea, this approach to solar seems to necessitate a new type of business plan. While we were unable to get a comment from Ikea on the matter, the company is using third-party partner Solarcentury to provide the panels and installation, and the company LG Chem to manufacture battery packs. From what we can tell, Ikea isn’t manufacturing any of these components, and it might not be designing them, either. Rather, Ikea almost seems to be playing the role of a more typical retailer, selling some other company’s product with its storefront.
Does this actually matter to consumers, though? Perhaps not. Ikea has slowly dipped its toe into consumer electronics, buying an LED manufacturer in 2014, producing its own lamps, and releasing a smart lighting kit and app earlier this year. Speaking about that development to Björn Block, Business Leader for Ikea Home Smart, he admitted its smart lighting required a lot of new partners who were more versed in technology. But some Ikea smart lighting products are actually selling better than projected.
“We’re not doing this because we want to push our technology. We’re doing this because it serves the same vision and values of what we’re doing at Ikea. The simplicity and low price are key features we’re holding onto,” said Block when we spoke. “Sometimes it takes a little longer to get products out, but once we launch them, we believe they’re really serving the purchaser.”
Block doesn’t oversee Ikea’s solar initiatives, but his perspective here seems relevant all the same. Ikea may not be making a mass market solar panel all on its own, and it may not be first to market with any of its tech products. But the Ikea philosophies of affordability, scalability, and usability seem unaltered.
And no doubt, while Tesla’s unreleased solar roof will continue making headlines, Ikea will quietly sell light bulb after light bulb, solar panel after solar panel, and meatball after meatball. The world has an incredible appetite for a decent value.