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Elon Musk Learned Hard Lesson in Energy Storage

March 29
8:17 AM 2016

Powerwall is a home energy storage designed to store energy for residential. The product was launched last year with two option 7 kwh and 10 kwh. Nevertheless, the economic scale for the product is not attractive. As a result, Tesla quietly remove its 10 kilowatt hour product.

Green Tech Media was the first to report the removal of the product. A representative of Tesla sent email statement stating, "The Daily Powerwall supports daily use applications like solar self-consumption plus backup power applications, and can offer backup simply by modifying the way it is installed in a home. Due to the interest, we have decided to focus entirely on building and deploying the 7-kilowatt-hour Daily Powerwall at this time."

At the price tag of $3,500, the 10-kilowatt-hour product was marketed as a backup power supply which capable of 500 cycles. Tesla aim at the customers who wanted to keep electricity running when power grid goes down, such as during storm or other events.

However, the economics of Tesla backup battery are not attractive. As other alternative products such as portable backup generators from companies like Generac and Cummins are sold for $5,000 or even less. The backup generators has been proven to provide a better electricity compared to powerwall which is not proven.

"Even some of the deep cycling lead acid batteries offer 1,000 cycles and cost less than half of the $3,500 price tag for Tesla Powerwall," said a senior energy storage analyst at GTM Research Ravi Manghani. "For pure backup applications only providing 500 cycles, lead acid batteries or gensets are way more economical."

During the launching of the product last year, Elon Musk as reported by Ars Technica was unsure whether the sales of the 7 kwh will be successful in some states in the US. However, Elon Musk added, "Some people want to go off-grid on principle."

In California, the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) should benefit sales of Tesla Powerwall. However, the states regulate that battery systems need to be able to cycle five times a week in order to be eligible. That regulation exclude Tesla bigger product to be included in the incentive program.

Therefore Tesla expected to sell its daily cycling units in Australia and Germany, where the economics work out a bit better for people with solar panels. Ars Technica also predicted Tesla will modify the smaller battery for storage use-cases.

The Verge reported that Tesla planned to launch a new version of  Powerwall sometime this year, probably in July or August. Elon Musk promised the new model will offer a further step change in capabilities, but he didn't specify what kind of improvements.

Tesla will modify its Powerwall product to enhance its capability. The company must act fast, as its product is less attractive than other power supply available in the market.

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