Batteries and their high costs are the limiting factor for electric vehicle commercialization, with most vehicle companies content to let battery manufacturers set the pace. Not so with Tesla as it forges ahead to build its own huge lithium-ion battery plant, now in its first commercial phase in southern Nevada.
Tesla is also building battery packs to power homes and back up the electric grid. In September, the company announced a deal to supply a record 20 megawatts/80 megawatt-hours of energy storage to Southern California Edison as part of a wider effort to prevent blackouts, replacing fossil-fuel electricity generation with lithium-ion batteries.
The storage products fit into Musk’s long-term vision of transforming Tesla from an electric car company to a clean-energy company. That’s the same motivation behind his recently concluded deal to acquire SolarCity Corp., the largest U.S. rooftop solar installer.
In cooperation with Panasonic and other strategic partners, the Gigafactory will produce batteries for significantly less cost using economies of scale, innovative manufacturing, reduction of waste, and the simple optimization of locating most manufacturing process under one roof. They expect to drive down the per kilowatt hour (kWh) cost of battery packs by more than 30 percent. Check it out. The Gigafactory will also be powered by renewable energy sources, with the goal of achieving net zero energy.
Thomas Edison would applaud this Gigafactory effort by Tesla, as Edison pioneered the large scale, centralized production of nickel-iron storage batteries. Following a ten-year design and testing effort, the battery was put into production around
1910. Designed originally for use in electric vehicles, the Edison batteries went on to become used by various branches of the military, the railroads, the mining industry and the merchant marine – making batteries his most widely sold and perhaps most profitable product. Edison batteries were made and sold into the 1970s, long after Edison’s death. Edison was also a big solar proponent way back in 1910 as well.
To this big effort by Tesla, Edison would say, “Elon Musk … it’s your turn now. Show us what you got!”