Elon Musk lays out vision for a battery-powered future


— 6:28 PM on May 1, 2015

Tesla may be best known for its electric cars, but founder Elon Musk has broader ambitions for the company's battery packs. Last night, the would-be battery baron unveiled his vision. Operating under the umbrella of Tesla Energy, Musk wants to use Tesla's battery technology to help improve the viability of solar power and other renewable energy generation methods.

One of the major problems of solar energy and other renewables is the inherently cyclical nature of the generation methods. Wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine. Tesla Energy wants to provide the missing piece: a way to store this energy in compact, high-capacity batteries.

The most consumer-focused product of this initiative is called the Tesla Powerwall, a sleek, 10kWh battery that can be mounted on a garage wall or on the outside of a home. Musk says the Powerwall can provide defense against power outages and even allow a home to go off the grid entirely by storing energy from roof-mounted solar panels. Each Powerwall will cost $3,500, and as many as nine Powerwalls can be linked together depending on a home or business' energy needs.

For sites where Powerwalls aren't enough, Tesla Energy will also be making a product called the Powerpack, a 100kWh battery that Musk says is "designed to scale infinitely." A gigawatt-hour-sized installation of 10,000 units could power a city like Boulder, Colorado, according to Musk.

Musk wants to see the technology behind the Powerpack and Powerwall used by other companies to further this vision. Tesla Energy will be open-sourcing the patents behind its batteries and factories so that other companies can produce similar products of their own. Ultimately, he hopes that through adoption of this technology, the world will be able to more effectively transition energy generation to solar and other renewable methods, reducing carbon emissions and lessening the impact of climate change on future generations. It's a grand vision, and it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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