Tesla Motors, the American car manufacturer and energy storage company that designs and manufactures electric cars has unveiled a ground-breaking new line of storage batteries.
Designed for use in homes and businesses the batteries allow green energy to be stored and released at a later date. The sleek wall-mounted lithium-ion batteries can capture and store up to 10kWh of solar or wind energy. The reserves can then be drawn on when sunlight is low or winds are light, during power cuts or during periods of peak demand, when electricity costs are highest.
The smallest “Powerwall” is 1.3m by 68cm, small enough to be hung inside a garage or on an outside wall. Up to eight batteries could be “stacked” in a home.
A larger “Powerpack” has also been unveiled. A 100kWh battery block that will help utilities smooth out their supply of variable wind and solar energy, or to pump energy into the grid when demand is high.
At the product’s recent launch Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, stated that two billion Powerpacks could store enough electricity to meet the entire world’s needs. “That may seem like an insane number,” he said, “but this is actually within the power of humanity to do.”
Musk is no stranger to ground-breaking ideas and in 2013 he unveiled his solar-powered elevated transit concept “Hyperloop”. Billed as a "cross between a Concorde and a rail gun and an air hockey table," he said it could carry passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco (380 miles) in less than 30 minutes, at speeds of up to 760mph, however the concept has yet to be developed.
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Musk said the company had Africa in mind when it developed the Powerwall. Just like the mobile phone allowed the continent to surge ahead in internet connectivity, so a battery pack that can power a home or business could allow Africans to overcome the limits of the grid.
Musk has heralded the technology as “a fundamental transformation [in] how energy is delivered across the Earth”.
Unsurprisingly, the Powerwall has proved hugely popular with Tesla taking orders worth roughly $800 million in potential revenue in the first few days of reservations since it was launched on April 30.
If these numbers are realised, it would be almost as much as the company took in from car sales in the entire first quarter of 2015. At a recent earnings presentation Musk said: "It's like crazy off-the-hook, the sheer volume of demand here is just staggering."
Indeed, demand is so great that it looks like the firm’s new five million sq ft “gigafactory” in Nevada will not be big enough to cope. The facility is set to become the largest producer of lithium-ion batteries in the world, and it is hoped its mass-production scale will help to cut costs.
However, it must be noted that reservations don’t necessarily convert to sales. Anyone can go online and place a reservation, years in advance, with no commitment to buy. To reserve a Tesla Model X vehicle, by contrast, requires $5,000 up front.
Deutsche Bank estimates sales of battery storage systems for homes and businesses could yield as much as $4.5bn in revenue for Tesla. Add to this the fact that the energy storage industry is expected to grow to $19bn by 2017, according to research firm IHS CERA, and the future looks bright for Tesla.
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