- tesla has debuted a bitcoin option for payment on its site, though it’s only available in the u.s. for now.
- the ev maker purchased $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency several months ago, and elon musk frequently tweets about cryptocurrencies.
- tesla intends to keep the bitcoin it receives as payment, instead of converting it to dollars.
as promised by elon musk earlier this year, tesla is now accepting bitcoin as payment for its cars. the payment option appeared on the automaker's website this week, below the other payment options on its model configurator pages. for now, the bitcoin payment option is available only to u.s. buyers, but tesla is considering offering it in other countries later on.
there are a few caveats, of course, which tesla spells out directly in a three-page document, sometimes in all caps.
among other warnings, tesla says bitcoin transactions cannot be reversed and that buyers need to exercise care when entering the bitcoin address into the recipient field. tesla also urges buyers to pay attention when entering the bitcoin price into the amount field. if the bitcoin address is input incorrectly, the company cautions, the bitcoin could be lost or irretrievably destroyed, and tesla won't be liable for any lost cryptocurrency. another support page with bitcoin faqs cautions that if users have multiple electronic wallets, they should make sure to send the exact amount from a single wallet to ensure timely processing of orders.
even though bitcoin payments sound like they would be instantaneous and immediately confirmable by tesla, the reality is a little different—it could consume the better part of a day to confirm of the transaction.
"once you send bitcoin from your wallet, the page will refresh within one minute. if it does not refresh, do not send a new payment," tesla warns. "we will email you a confirmation once payment is received. this can take up to six hours to process."
due to bitcoin's volatility, tesla is keeping pricing for its cars in u.s. dollars rather than setting a fixed bitcoin price, so the amount of bitcoin required can actually vary quite sharply day to day, or even hour to hour.
"if you choose to make a payment using bitcoin, you must pay an amount of bitcoin that is of equivalent value to the u.s. dollar purchase price of the product that you purchase," the automaker says. "we will provide you with a u.s. dollar price for the product or service that you are purchasing, as well as a bitcoin equivalent price (the 'bitcoin price'). you must initiate the transfer of the bitcoin price to us within the time period that we provide to you together with the bitcoin price (the 'bitcoin price window'). if you do not initiate the transfer of the bitcoin price to us within the bitcoin price window, the bitcoin price will expire, and we will provide you with a new bitcoin price and bitcoin price window upon your request."
so steady hands are required, let's put it that way.
if it sounds like the amount of bitcoin required to place even a $100 reservation on the ordering page can differ quite a bit throughout the day, you're not wrong. trading of the cryptocurrency has already responded to the announcement by tesla ceo elon musk hours ago that the automaker would begin accepting bitcoin payments on wednesday, march 24, predictably sending the value of bitcoin higher.
whether other automakers will begin accepting bitcoin remains to be seen, but for now some large retailers still appear to be wary of the long-term prospects of cryptocurrencies, as well as their daily fluctuations. tesla's bet on bitcoin is, of course, more than just an offer to buyers of another way to pay—bitcoin value has soared since the start of the year, making tesla's initial acquisition of $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency far more valuable today than at the time of purchase. and the publicity surrounding tesla's embrace of bitcoin has been a self-reinforcing mechanism.
but tesla isn't cashing out, at least not right away.