Where Tesla Goes, Daimler Follows: German Automaker Announces Stationary Energy Storage Business

When it announced its brand-new line of domestic and industrial energy storage products at a special even last month, Californian automaker Tesla Motors experienced so much demand that Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk described it as ‘Crazy, off-the-hook’ the very next week during Tesla’s Q1 2015 earnings call.

Tesla's PowerWall has a new competitor from former investor Daimler.

Tesla’s PowerWall has a new competitor from former investor Daimler.

In fact, demand for Tesla’s home power storage unit and its industrial-scale power storage units — the Tesla PowerWall and Tesla PowerPack respectively — has been so high that some analysts say orders thus far account for more than $800 million worth of business. With its PowerWall product sold out for both this year and next, Tesla is even considering a dramatic expansion to its as-yet unfinished Gigafactory in Reno, Nevada to produce enough battery cells to meet demand.

Simply put, Tesla’s new Tesla Energy products could be a far larger business for Tesla than the electric cars which started it all.

It’s no surprise then that former Tesla shareholder and luxury automaker Daimler is following in Tesla’s tire tracks and setting up its own grid-connected battery storage system to sell to both commercial and private customers.

As Daimler detailed in a press release last week, its subsidiary Deutsche ACCUmotive AG has just signed a business contract with German utility company Energie Baden-Württemberg AG (EnBW) to build and supply both domestic and industrial-grade static energy storage systems to customers in Q3 this year.

Like Tesla Motors, Daimler wants a piece of the energy storage market.

Formed in 2009, Deutsche ACCUmotive AG is a 100 percent owned subsidiary of Daimler which currently produces lithium-ion battery packs for Daimler’s various plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles across the Daimler group. This includes the current-generation Smart ForTwo ED and upcoming plug-in hybrid versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and C-Class.

The only exception to this is the Mercedes-Benz B-Class electric drive, which uses a Tesla-engineered battery pack, drivetrain and power system — a holdover from the days when Daimler was a substantial shareholder in Tesla Motors.

Daimler has plans to capture the energy market too.

Daimler has plans to capture the energy market too.

Unlike Tesla Motors, whose domestic modular Tesla Power Wall product can be scaled up in 10 kilowatt-hour or 7 kilowatt-hour increments to a total of 90 kilowatt-hours, the domestic battery being produced by Deutsche ACCUmotive is a 2.5 kilowatt-hour unit that can be scaled up in size to 20 kilowatt-hours. Its commercial version — offered in 5.9 kilowatt-hour capacity — can be scaled up  for larger projects to capacities as large as the client requires.

Currently, Deutsche ACCUmotive is putting the finishing touches to Daimler’s first industrial-scale storage unit on the German power grid. Operated in collaboration with partners The Mobility House and GETEC through the joint venture Columb and marketed on the German energy exchange, the system currently totals 500 kilowatt-hours of storage. Designed to provide grid stabilisation and smoothing capabilities, the installation in Kamenz, Saxony — where the batteries themselves are made — will be increased step-by-step until it is 3 megawatt-hours in capacity (3,000 kWh).

There’s no details on pricing for either the domestic or industrial energy storage products from Daimler, but the company does say that it will open the order books for prospective customers this June, with the first deliveries due to start by the autumn.

With Tesla’s order books already full for both 2015 and 2016, Daimler could stand to benefit from the current rush to produce grid-connected storage systems, but until we know the price it’s impossible to decide if Daimler’s entry into this market will be competitive against Tesla and its Gigafactory in the long term.


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