Tesla Getting Into Home Batteries

Seeking to redefine itself as more than a high-tech automaker, Tesla Motors announced plans to make inroads into residential and business battery systems. I said on the Car Pro Show over a year ago that I thought Tesla was going to evolve into more of a battery maker than an automaker.

While home batteries aren’t as sexy as electric luxury cars, Tesla CEO Elon Musk portrayed the Powerwall Home Battery and the business system, called the Powerpack, as helping to wean the world off oil and gas.

“This is within the power of humanity to do,” Musk told the large crowd gathered at Tesla’s design center in this Los Angeles suburb. “We have done things like this before. It is not impossible.”

Musk says the system could be a boon to those living off the electric grid, similar to moves by other tech companies to connect some of the most remote regions of the world to services that previously required wires. Facebook is testing a solar-powered drone to bring Internet to some of the most remote places on the globe. Google’s Project Loon attempts to accomplish the same with balloons traveling on the edge of space.

Musk says the basic 10 kilowatt-hour Powerwall home system will sell for $3,500 and use much of the same technology found in Tesla electric cars, known for having the longest range per car of any pure electric cars on the road. “In a lot of ways it’s taking derivative technology from the car,” he told reporters before the presentation.

It’s expected that the Powerwall would be bought mostly by homeowners who want to store energy from their solar systems, allowing them to run off their own power after the sun goes down. The company showed off the sleek design of the home batteries, pointing out they are a slim six inches thick and can be mounted on walls. He says he expects to have several of them mounted in his own home.

The battery storage units will be marketed by a division called Tesla Energy. He says he expects the power systems to turn profitable next year.

Powerwall will go on sale later this year in the U.S., to be followed by foreign sales. Production will shift next to the batteries coming out of the Tesla “Gigafactory” that it is being built on the outskirts of Reno. The home batteries will be similar to the hand-sized lithium ion batteries that run Tesla cars.

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