Storage insiders tepid on Tesla's new battery system

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The fireworks the Tesla announcement triggered have been characterized by some as media hype. That goes for Germany, too, where the combination of on-grid PV systems with battery storage is comparatively advanced.

Elon Musk presented his energy revolution and the launch of his Powerwall consumer battery-based storage system in California with a healthy dose of humor. And Tesla has an image of being a foundry of disruptive innovations. Ultimately, the kicker was supposed to be the price of the system, which works out around US$350 per kilowatt-hour ($350/kWh). The price is about one-third of current retail prices in Germany.

Nevertheless, power storage system providers are not worried. Some see a positive effect in the announcement.

"The high profile of the strong Tesla brand could finally get the energy market moving,” says Andreas Piepenbrink, CEO of the provider E3DC, one of Germany’s storage market leaders. He still has his doubts as to whether the battery can be a success. A number of market players hold views similar to Piepenbrink’s and are rubbing their eyes at what they see as all of the unjustified hubbub in the press.

The list price is for the battery alone and not for the entire storage system. For instance, it does not include the power electronics and energy management. Thus, Tesla is not really competing with system providers, but rather with battery manufacturers.

"Now Tesla will have to prove that they are better at making batteries than competitors like Panasonic and Samsung. That’s going to be interesting,” says Piepenbrink.

This is particularly true in light of the fact that $350/kWh is the wholesale price installers will be charged and not, as Tesla may have implied, a retail price.

"These are standard purchase prices for system providers that Tesla is now somewhat deceptively repackaging as consumer prices," said Piepenbrink.

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