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Tesla Energy up and running, company welcomes Faraday and other EV competitors

Model S and Powerwall storage system. Image: Tesla.
Production and deliveries of Tesla’s stationary storage systems have now begun, while a company spokesman said it welcomes new competitors such as Faraday Future to the EV space – in line with Tesla’s stated values to accelerate clean energy deployment.

Khobi Brooklyn, a global communications director at Tesla, confirmed to Energy Storage News that “Tesla Energy products are currently being produced and delivered”. After their high profile launch in April of last year, anticipation has been building for the first Powerwall residential systems and Powerpack for commercial and utility-scale use.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has claimed repeatedly that if pre-order registration levels last year expressing interest in the energy storage systems were an accurate indication, the company will quickly sell out of the systems even as they hit the shelves for the first time.

With an understanding from late last year that the US and Australia would be the first markets to receive the devices, utilities and retailers in both regions have started offering limited quantities to their customers. Applications they are being sold for include enabling self-consumption of PV and back-up power at domestic scale, with the commercial systems to be sold to reduce businesses’ time-of-use billing charges and utility-scale to provide various benefits to grid network operators and large-scale renewables.   

EV sales as expected, Model 3 launch could be moment of truth

Tesla filed its most recent EV sales figures on 3 January. In the last quarter of the year, it delivered 17,192 Model S and 208 Model X cars, with the latter only launched towards the end of the year. The company said that while production capacity for the Model X remains relatively low at around 238 cars per week, this was because the company prioritises “quality above all else,” the filing said. The ramp is however, “increasing exponentially”, according to Tesla.

Chris Robinson, an analyst with Lux Research, told Energy Storage News that the company’s deliveries for the year, 50,580 EVs in total, were roughly in line with revised guidance put out earlier in 2015. While some media outlets had chosen to hail the year as a tremendous success and others were less positive, Robinson said that his take was “somewhere in the middle”.

“It’s about what we expected. I don’t think it’s a home run and I don’t think it’s devastating for them. They met their revised target which was lower but they’re still selling 50,000 cars a year. That’s impressive considering how long they’ve been established.”

However, Robinson said, levels of competition in the EV space will increase in the next three to four years, especially for Tesla as it prepares to bring out its “affordable” family car, the Model 3, which will be produced out of the huge ‘Gigafactory’ being built in Nevada and will be priced somewhere between US$30,000 and US$40,000.

“Tesla will not only be fighting with luxury makers, as they move downmarket [into family and affordable cars] they will be fighting incremental improvements to gas and hybrids, which is going to be pretty tough.”

Nissan Leaf (left) and Tesla Model S. Image: wikimedia user: Norsk Elbilforening, cropped from original by Mariordo.
Tesla welcomes clean energy acceleration through EV competition

Robinson said that at present, BYD, the maker backed by famed investor Warren Buffet, looks the strongest competitor for Musk’s California-headquartered company.

“I think BYD, the Chinese-American manufacturer, is probably going to be selling more plug-ins than Tesla this year. They’ve made huge strides. They’re selling really large numbers,” Robinson said.

“They use fewer batteries as they’re plug-in hybrids but they’ve had a lot of success in China, and I think they’re not to be overlooked when they start looking more globally.”

Robinson said that Nissan’s Leaf, which has been widely reported to be in a sales slump, selling around 2,400 cars in November and December of last year compared to more than 3,000 in December 2014 alone, should “not be written off yet”. Customers may be waiting for Nissan’s longer-range model which will be available soon and with a range of around 170 miles, Robinson said, accounting for the slow sales.

Into the mix with Tesla, Nissan and BYD, commitments to producing lower emissions vehicles from manufacturers such as General Motors and VW will also add to the competition.

Tesla communications director Khobi Brooklyn told Energy Storage News that ultimately, the more electric vehicles are deployed, the better for the global transition to clean energy and as such the competition was welcome. Elon Musk has repeatedly stated that his reasons for involvement in SolarCity as a board member and for founding Tesla Motors were motivated by this need. Energy Storage News asked how Tesla sees the competitive landscape for EVs as it stands, and whether the company was confident that future strategies such as the Model 3 launch will help it to remain dominant among makers of electric cars.

“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation and energy use. It’s great to see more manufacturers ramp up efforts to put more electric vehicles on the road.”

Faraday Future launch at CES 'dissapointing', leaves analyst scratching head

Finally, on a similar topic, Lux analyst Robinson was lukewarm on the launch of another EV maker branded with the namesake of a famous engineer from history, the Faraday Future concept sports car, shown off at the CES consumer electronics show in the US earlier this week.

“I was a little disappointed!” Robinson said.

“I thought we were going to learn more about the company and more about what car they’re bringing to market and what their plans are but they continued the same rhetoric, saying they’d have a road car in a couple of years, and then they showed us this race car concept that doesn’t have its own power or anything yet.”

Faraday Future said it had built the car on a “variable platform architecture” which could be adapted to produce different models of EVs, an idea which they called “innovative” – but which Robinson said was something other auto makers do. In the absence of more concrete detail he said, it was hard to see what the company would do differently to the competition.

“I’m scratching my head!” Robinson said.

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