Energy Business

Is Elon Musk's New Battery Just a Toy?

Tesla Motors Inc.’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) electric cars have been described at toys that will never sell more than a few thousand units a month. Certainly, that has been the case so far. Founder Elon Musk might argue that the problem is factory capacity. Skeptics argue that hybrids and high gas mileage engines offer enough fuel efficiency for almost all Americans. Now, Musk has released a battery that can help fuel home energy consumption. The product may be used by a small niche of Americans, because it has so little utility to power most homes and is so expensive.

Musk described the new battery in a press release at the Tesla website:

Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening. It also fortifies your home against power outages by providing a backup electricity supply. Automated, compact and simple to install, Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup.

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The success of the product assumes that people want to have technicians who come to their homes to install both solar hardware and the battery itself. People also have to care about their financial and infrastructural relationship with their utilities:

The average home uses more electricity in the morning and evening than during the day when solar energy is plentiful. Without a home battery, excess solar energy is often sold to the power company and purchased back in the evening. This mismatch adds demand on power plants and increases carbon emissions. Powerwall bridges this gap between renewable energy supply and demand by making your home’s solar energy available to you when you need it.

Probably many users are environmentalists.

Tesla makes the case that many people will need to buy more than one battery, which presumably will raise the car company’s profits:

Powerwall comes in 10 kWh weekly cycle and 7 kWh daily cycle models. Both are guaranteed for ten years and are sufficient to power most homes during peak evening hours. Multiple batteries can be installed together for homes with greater energy needs.

The array of installation needs, likely modest power cost savings and newness of the product are beyond what people want as part of simply powering their homes.

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