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Tesla expands into batteries for homes, businesses

TESLA Motors is expanding beyond its electric vehicles business into the energy industry's another fast-growing area by making inroads into residential and business battery systems.

"The issue with existing batteries is that they suck. They're really horrible," Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk told a large crowd of business partners and reporters late Thursday at a Tesla design center in Los Angeles suburb when unveiling batteries for homes, companies and utilities. "We want to show people most importantly that this is possible ... This is the future we need to have."

What Musk has unveiled is called Tesla Energy, a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels.

The one that will get the most attention is the Powerwall Home Battery, which Tesla says is meant "to give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve." It consists of a lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter.

There are two versions of Powerwall, which are slim six inches thick and can be mounted flat on walls. Both can be connected with solar or grid and both can provide backup power, Musk said.

The 10kWh version will sell for US$3,500, while the smaller one will sell for US$3,000. They will go on sale later this year in the United States, to be followed by foreign sales.

Powerwall initially will be built in Fremont, California, and ultimately in the Tesla Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada.

The battery can provide financial savings by charging during low rate periods, when demand for electricity is lower and discharging during more expensive rate period when electricity demand is higher, Telsa said.

Moreover, the battery can store surplus solar energy not used at the time it is generated and use that energy later when the sun is not shining, Telsa said, adding that this gives users power in the event of an outage.

In addition to the Powerwall, Tesla also announced an energy storage system for businesses, and a large scale system for use by utilities.

Musk told reporters that his company expected to have a low but growing gross margin in battery products in the fourth quarter of this year, adding that the battery products would be "materially profitable" some time next year.

Tesla shares have jumped 20 percent over the past month as investors speculated about the battery's technical specifications and market potential. But It remains to be seen whether Powerwall and other Tesla products will find a market.

Seeking to redefine itself as more than a high-tech automaker, Tesla describe itself "not just an automotive company, it's an energy innovation company. Tesla Energy is a critical step in this mission to enable zero emission power generation."

"Once we're able to rely on renewable energy sources for our power consumption, the top 50 percent of the dirtiest power generation resources could retire early. We would have a cleaner, smaller, and more resilient energy grid," Tesla said.


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