Tesla’s Powerwall Event: The 12 Most Important Facts

"The issue with existing batteries," Musk mused, "is that they suck"

Here's Why Tesla Is Building Batteries for Your Home

Tesla just gave us its first look at a new stackable battery system to store electricity for homes, businesses, and the grid. It’s a product that Tesla says will soon bring in billions in annual revenue. Here’s what Elon Musk revealed:

1. The home battery version is called the Powerwall. It looks like this: 

And it can be stacked, sideways, like this: 

2. It’s cheap (but not too cheap). Powerwalls cost $3,500 for a 10-kilowatt-hour version that will allow you to run a handful of home appliances for a few days in case of an outage. That’s consistent with the general trajectory of falling battery prices—great for people who want to live off grid with solar power, but not yet cheap enough to make economic sense for most grid-connected customers.  

3. Notably, that doesn’t include the cost of the inverter or installation. In a conference call a year ago, Musk gave his first hint of what he wanted the Powerwall system to look like, including an "integrated bidirectional inverter, and it’s just plug and play.” The inverter and installation can more than double the price of a home storage system. 

4. It’s thin. The battery is designed to be hung on a garage wall, or even on an outside wall. It’s 220 pounds but just 7.1 inches deep. That’s two inches deeper than what he’d hoped for, but still pretty sleek. 

5. It ships this summer. Units are available for pre-order now and come in several colors. 

6. "The issue with existing batteries is that they suck." That’s Musk’s characteristically colorful take on the competition. “They’re expensive, they’re unreliable … stinky."

7. The larger version is called the Powerpack. Musk's biggest immediate opportunity is in commercial and utility-scale storage. The Powerpack is “infinitely scalable,” he said. It consists of 100-kilowatt-hour blocks that can be clustered to meet any project size.

8. Customers are waiting. Tesla has already been approached by a utility that wants a 250-megawatt-hour installation, Musk said, without naming the utility. That's 2,500 Powerpack towers. Non-utility customers include Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Target. 

9. This is what a utility-scale project looks like: 

10. Powerpack costs weren’t provided. It's worth noting that even before this event, Tesla was already the biggest provider of battery storage under California’s generous subsidy program for storage projects. The Powerpack isn't really a new line of products for Musk, just a streamlined one.  

11. The event (which started more than an hour after it was scheduled) was run entirely on batteries. "This entire night, everything you’re using, is stored sunlight,” Musk told the crowd. 

12. The spirit of open source continues. Tesla’s open patent policy has been extended to both the battery technology and the design of the $5 billion gigafactory itself. 

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