Tesla Powerwall Batteries – Can They Be a Game Changer in the Energy Space?
MAY 3, 2015 BY
It’s been three days since Tesla CEO Elon Musk made the big reveal, as the new Powerwall home batteries arrived at a splashy launch event in Hawthorne, California. These batteries, as we told you not too long ago, work together with solar energy to power entire homes. But can Powerwall really make a difference in the broader energy space?
First, let’s set the mood for the story and take you back to Thursday, when Tony Stark’s real-life equivalent – Elon Musk, who else – unveiled Powerwall at a press event. Musk was quoted as saying that these lithium-ion home batteries would allow for a slow but steady shift from fossil fuel as an energy source to low carbon emission sources like the Sun. And while energy from the Sun could fluctuate, especially in the evening, Powerall stores solar energy and releases it only when needed. That, according to Musk, is what makes the batteries such viable replacements for the conventional solutions we all know.
Now that we’re back to the present, we’ve been hearing from a lot of energy industry professionals as they chime in on Tesla’s Powerwall launch. Industry people generally agree that Tesla’s entry into the energy space is positive for the industry, as it would effectively reduce costs for lithium-ion battery manufacture, and lithium batteries in general. “We saw the same thing in solar, the cost of panels came down quickly,” said CODA Energy CEO Paul Detering in a special interview with Wired. “The winning bet was to drive the industry costs down rather than trying to do it yourself.”
Nature, on the other hand, explored the game-changing potential (or lack thereof) of Powerwall in a Q&A format. What was most interesting was the part asking whether Tesla was able to reduce costs of battery storage. Quoting Lux Research analyst Cosmin Laslau, Nature said that Powerwall (which costs $3,000 to $3,500) isn’t that much cheaper than other competing solutions. He believes Tesla is selling the batteries at a loss, as it may cost about $4,000 to produce them, but also added that once production ramps up at the Gigafactory in Nevada, that may change in the coming years.
Then again, that last report also did make some good points. No, Tesla’s battery tech is nothing new at all. It’s based on “standard” lithium-ion technology that’s similar to what many competitors offer. And yes, for the average consumer, $3,000 is a lot to pay for a home battery. At the end of the day, Powerwall does have potential, but it may take a year or two before it gets realized in earnest.