Musk's Tesla faces German battle over battery-powered homes

Fri Nov 27, 2015 1:01pm EST
 
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By Vera Eckert and Christoph Steitz

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - If Elon Musk's vision of millions of households producing all their own power becomes a reality, it will probably happen first in Germany. But he will face a battle for market share against local firms with years of experience in renewable energy.

The South African-born entrepreneur's company Tesla, best known for its electric cars, sparked global interest in the idea of self-powered homes in April, when it said it would start selling lithium-ion batteries for households next year.

The batteries, called Powerwalls, connect to solar panels on the roof of a house and aim to store enough power during the day to drive kettles and washing machines at night, raising the prospect that households one day will be able to rely fully on clean energy and become independent of the power grid.

There are big challenges.

The technology does not yet allow most users to disconnect from the grid - the German solar industry association BSW estimates batteries currently raise solar power self-sufficiency to at least 60 percent.

Then there is the price. Buying and installing solar panels and batteries costs around 10,000 euros ($10,600) or more.

But the technology is improving, and costs falling, and some analysts think Germany - with more solar panels than anywhere in the world and sky-high power prices - could become the industry's first mass-market.

"The business model of power batteries is becoming increasingly attractive," said Norbert Schwieters, global utilities leader at consultants PwC, noting market estimates that sales in Germany could reach half a million within a decade, up from around 25,000 now.   Continued...

 
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk delivers Model X electric sports-utility vehicles during a presentation in Fremont, California September 29, 2015.  REUTERS/Stephen Lam