Are we really going to have electric cars on the street any time soon? The answer is no. Even in a world where electricity is cheap enough to do without, it’s still a big task to build a battery technology that’s safe to operate and cost-efficient enough to be affordable.
The battery market is too small for that, and Tesla is betting that its $5 billion acquisition of electric car company SolarCity, which will include the SolarCity battery business, will allow it to address those needs.
If it succeeds, SolarCity is betting the battery will be the next major product launch for Tesla and the carmaker’s other battery business, the Powerwall.
In the interview, Musk acknowledged that the Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack can generate electricity, but said they are far more expensive than what Tesla hopes they will be. They will be a lot less expensive than what the solar rooftop business, which produces electricity on site, could be later this decade.
The price gap will be much worse than in 2014, he said, when the Powerpack cost $4 per watt versus $6 per watt in April 2016, and the Powerwall at $200 per kilowatt hour. But when the battery does go down from its current $5 to just $3 per kilowatt hour, Musk said that will give Tesla the scale it needs.
What is the Tesla Powerwall?
The Tesla Powerwall is something different for Tesla, which in the past had products that were designed to be connected to homes. The Powerwall is made up of a series of thin, rigid rectangular battery packs that can be connected together and that generate power through an electromagnetically-actuated motor or a conventional battery.
“We’ve taken [the Tesla Powerwall] one step further,” Musk said, explaining that, from a cost-to-performance perspective, it’s much more efficient than the traditional power system.
“It works really well, and a lot of Tesla vehicles are already using it,” Musk said. “They run on it a little bit more than it’s supposed to.”
If Tesla can scale up the Tesla Powerwall on a larger scale to be as cheap in dollars as the solar panels do in terms of energy per kilowatt hour, the $5 to $6 to $7 million per unit that could be needed to make it a mainstream product will be an investment in itself. Musk said that, based on the performance of the Powerwall, Tesla
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