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Tesla's New Vision

Posted July 17, 2015 7:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

Nikola Tesla was a visionary - he believed in, pioneered, and advanced a number of foundational technologies which we take for granted today; such as radio and alternating current electricity. Tesla Motors company has mirrored the namesake by dreaming big in the world of electric vehicles. Their sportcars and sedans are notable for their performance and speed (such as the P85D with a 0-60 of 3.2 seconds). But while sportcars and luxury cars are pretty impressive, the price tags on Tesla vehicles will tell you that they are not in the business of marketing products for the average middle-class consumer.

That is... until now.

Tesla's latest vision is one that hopes to makes electric a more viable energy option for everyone. The project, known as 'Tesla Energy', is a battery system aimed to provide homes, businesses, and even public utilities a means for storing electric energy from wind and solar.

For homeowners, the product of note is the Powerwall, a three x four x one half foot battery pack that hangs on a wall. It provides solar energy users the ability to store excess energy during the day and utilize it at night (or during a power outage) to power the house (or charge an electric vehicle). The battery has the ability to attach to additional units for additional storage capacity. The units come in at $3,000 for 7 kWh and $3,500 for 10 kWh for a 9 year lease With the adapter, control system, and installation/maintenance fees it actually adds up to $5,000 for the 10 kWH version. Furthermore, the lease must be coupled with a rooftop solar installation or contract. Otherwise you must buy the system upfront: $7,140.

For some, the $5K 9-year lease may not be outrageous. Places with very unreliable power or very high utility costs could benefit from a storage source for their solar and wind power. And for those really shooting to get off the grid, the Powerwall may be the answer. But it is certainly not a cheap one, and for the average homeowner with a modest rooftop solar system, the Powerwall essentially acts as just a less intrusive generator. And like a generator, the battery can run lights and refrigerators, but it doesn't have the juice for power hungry appliances like air conditioners or dryers. And remember that it is only actually saving money when it is capturing excess solar energy (to use in place of grid power).

But the Tesla Energy project is more than just the Powerwall. For businesses, there is the Powerpack. This product is a 100kWh unit that can scale from 500 kWh systems all the way to 10 MWh or more. This may eventually help some businesses go off the grid. Off the grid kinda like Tesla's Gigafactory (see image left). The Gigafactory is a $5 billion, 10 million square feet battery production facility being built in the deserts of Nevada. The plant, set to begin production in 2017, will be the largest lithium ion plant in the world. The idea behind the facility is to utilize economy of scale to create cheaper, more affordable batteries for electric vehicles and products like the Powerwall and Powerpack. And the factory will be powered by renewable energy, with the goal being net zero energy.

So has the solar energy revolution come yet? With developments like these you might think so. But I believe the change will come slowly, especially in the energy hungry USA where there are many economic and infrastructure gaps for solar & wind technology overcome. However, I admire companies like Tesla that are pushing hard to make renewable solutions more attainable. Future versions of products like the Powerpack and Powerwall may eventually be stepping stones into a new era for the energy industry. As Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, says "Our goal here is to change the way the world uses energy at an extreme scale." In the spirit of Nikola Tesla, they are thinking big and moving forward with what they believe is the technology of the future.

Sources:

The Verge

Tesla Motors

Green Car Reports

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#1

Re: Tesla's New Vision

07/17/2015 7:34 AM

Is it more cost effective than an emergency generator?

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Tesla's New Vision

07/17/2015 11:47 AM

No, but much more transparent - and quieter.

Presumably less maintenance, too.

On the downside, I wouldn't like the idea of that battery pack catching fire.

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#3

Re: Tesla's New Vision

07/17/2015 3:09 PM

Average car battery = 1 kwh

Average cost = $70.

Average American home use = 10 kwh per day

Average 2k watt inverter = $150.

The numbers don't add up in favor of this for most people....there may be a niche market where space and style are desirable....

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Tesla's New Vision

07/17/2015 3:36 PM

And car batteries are a poor choice as they are not designed to discharge more than 10 - 15%.

You need something like absorbent glass matt batteries, which increases the cost a good bit.

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