Tesla to announce home and utility-scale battery next week

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Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors has confirmed to Buzzfeed news that next week’s announcement of a major new Tesla product line – dangled teasingly from Musk’s Twitter account in March – will be the Tesla home battery and, perhaps more interestingly, a very large utility-scale battery.

Tesla VP of investor relations Jeff Evanson confirmed: “Musk will explain the advantages of our solutions and why past battery options were not compelling”, hinting that the Tesla treatment to innovation is coming the way of the home and utility-scale storage market.

As co-founder and chairman of SolarCity – which this week unveiled a $1 billion fund for commercial rooftop installations in the U.S. – Musk is methodically working towards a Tesla-SolarCity pincer movement on the U.S. home and energy markets, bridging the gap between electric vehicles, distributed solar energy generation, and home storage.

However, it is the utility-scale battery that is proving most intriguing. Musk has already confirmed that the much-anticipated home battery will be a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) product manufactured at the company’s $5 billion gigafactory in Nevada, delivered with the help of Panasonic. By leveraging an already enrapt customer base of Tesla vehicle owners, the benefits of a Tesla-backed home battery should already be clear for thousands of consumers.

Add SolarCity’s happy customers to the mix – the company controls close to 40% of the U.S. residential solar market – and this next venture could be off to a flying start. Tesla has already piloted consumer batteries in a handful of U.S. residences and businesses (including Wal-Mart, a large SolarCity customer), and while the current retail price of its 10 kWh battery is $13,000, costs are expected to fall dramatically over the coming years. Additionally, some states have energy efficiency rebates that could potentially cut that cost in half.

Analysis by Morgan Stanley forecasts that the Tesla-SolarCity combo could prove a game-changing disruption for energy markets as more and more people are able to afford to live off grid, a revolution that in turn will help push battery storage costs below $100/kWh. Currently, Tesla motor batteries cost $300/kWh.

Utilities worried by these developments have been thrown a bone by Tesla’s utility-scale battery announcement, which – although further details are currently scarce – is likely to be equally as potentially game-changing for grid operators’ energy storage ambitions. Is Musk about to put his money where his mouth is and come good on his pledge earlier this year that solar and utilities really can co-exist?

The time, date and place to find out is April 30, PST 8pm, at Tesla’s Design Studio in Hawthorne, California.

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