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Power Transportation

Tesla: A Carmaker Or Grid-Storage Company? 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Let's be real, the three Detroit automakers were skeptical of Tesla Motors, and rightfully so. But at this point, it's pretty hard to deny the impact this Silicon Valley automaker is having on the industry. Now there's a new question buzzing around: Is Tesla Motors actually a carmaker, or is it really just a grid-storage company? If you think about it, the company's stock price is too high for Toyota or Daimler to just buy it outright. So maybe Tesla's gigafactory will not only make batteries for its own electric cars, but it could also sell battery packs to electric utilities and others. In reality, the gigafactory could become its own separate company and just sell the battery packs to Tesla, and others."
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Tesla: A Carmaker Or Grid-Storage Company?

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  • by JerryLove (1158461) on Monday April 07, 2014 @04:10PM (#46687239)

    First they would need to lower the stock somehow... perhaps sewing FUD over 2 fires. If that doesn't work, maybe some campaign about how bad batteries are. That would make them aquireable... if it worked.

  • by bferrell (253291) on Monday April 07, 2014 @04:14PM (#46687295) Homepage Journal

    Having investigated this scenario, here's how it works:

    Solarcity installs a system (panels, storage, chargers/inverters) on your premises at zero cost to you. They get the tax subsidy offered for the installation. You roof is now occupied by solarcity. They sell you electricity AND what you don't use, they sell to your local utility. You have now switched energy providers and are STILL paying power bills.

    I fully recognize they they take on what maintenance there is on this plant... But there isn't much and they are completely unregulated. They charge the home owner whatever they please, just so it's below the regulated utility.

    It doesn't sit well with me and I won't do business that way.

  • Probably not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday April 07, 2014 @04:39PM (#46687517) Homepage

    Batteries for grid storage have different properties than batteries for cars.

    • Weight doesn't matter for grid storage.
    • Recharge time need not be faster than discharge rate.
    • Grid storage batteries should last a decade or two. Car storage batteries only need a working life of a few thousand hours.
    • Efficiency over a charge/discharge cycle matters more for grid storage.

    So grid storage tends to use different battery technologies than vehicles.

  • Re:Panasonic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday April 07, 2014 @04:59PM (#46687699) Homepage

    In 15 to 20 years time when "worn out" Model S battery packs start to become available I expect one of the main applications will be storage for domestic solar installations that can tolerate having only 70% capacity remaining. Tesla have said they estimate a 250,000 mile lifespan for their packs (down to 80% capacity), and offer an 8 year unlimited mileage warranty that seems to back that up (averaging 15k/year for 8 years is 120k miles, but some people do double that).

    Japanese manufacturers already offer this.

  • Re:Panasonic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wchin (6284) on Monday April 07, 2014 @06:25PM (#46688677)

    At the cell level, Tesla is probably already paying under $250/kWh. Maybe even just under $200/kWh. That's below most lithium iron phosphate battery costs which are already competitive with lead acid batteries for total life cycle costs in an off-grid solar battery setup. So this "too expensive" comment is probably not right. Further, if they recycle battery cells from transportation use to grid storage use, then the costs could be far lower.

  • Re:Panasonic (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blindseer (891256) <blindseer@earthli n k .net> on Monday April 07, 2014 @06:38PM (#46688825)

    I had a discussion with a coworker about the viability for solar power and out of that discussion came a challenge to find out what it would cost for a solar power system for a home. Taking up the challenge I spent a weekend doing the math on what it would cost to take my house off-grid and live off a solar and battery system. What I found was that it would cost ten times what I pay now for electricity.

    What I worked with was the going average cost of common lead-acid batteries for storage, the estimated cost of common solar panels, and the electronics to make it all work. It's been a while since I did this research and I'm not sure if I assumed three or four days of electric storage. If we assume just one day of storage, which means no backup for a stormy day, then I might be able to halve the cost of the system but that still only gets us to five times the cost of utility power.

    I calculated that if I cover my entire roof with solar panels that even in the winter I'd have enough power to run my home, assuming average power usage, excepting big power items like stoves and clothes dryers, I assumed that such items would be run off of natural gas. In the summer I'd have a glut of power, enough to run an electric car.

    For a moment let's assume you are correct and prices come down to where everyone would rather buy solar panels and a battery pack for their home than rely on utility power. What happens for extended periods of poor weather? People would have to have either utility power for that or, I assume more likely, a backup generator. A utility is going to want a monthly service fee for the wire to the home even if no power is consumed, at least that is how I pay for my natural gas service. A generator isn't free either but we are assuming the total cost is still in favor of solar panels on every rooftop.

    What other question I have is how much material will this take? That's a lot of valuable metals in people's basements, or placed on a grid for utility provided storage. I recall seeing someone that did the computation and for grid storage for the entire USA it would take a battery the size of Oklahoma that was two stories tall. Perhaps I recall incorrectly, I'm probably off by an order of magnitude or two but the battery had to be huge.

    If your prediction does come true I don't see that happening for a very long time. Solar panels and batteries have a long way to go until they are cheaper than coal and natural gas. I think we will have nuclear power cheaper than coal first.

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