Longer term, however, the potential is to scale up what’s learned at the home or neighborhood level to commercial structures such as office buildings and even utility-scale projects. Tesla and Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas both have commercial divisions, and a spokesperson for the latter said the company is already eyeing energy business opportunities beyond residential batteries.
“Mercedes-Benz Energy is not only focused on energy storage, but rather looking at the whole ecosystem of home energy solutions to support a customer’s transition to an electric vehicle,” according to a statement from the Silicon Valley outpost of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas provided to GreenBiz. “This encompasses several services from storage and renewable generation to smart home energy management, managed charging and more.”
From a business model standpoint, the company is looking to replicate the model of spinning out more agile technology divisions pioneered with Daimler carsharing subsidiary car2go — a model being replicated by others in the industry, such as General Motors offshoot Maven and Ford Smart Mobility, although those ventures so far have been focused on ridesharing and connected car technology over new energy business lines.
“Being our own entity gives us the ability to navigate the energy storage space with the speed and flexibility of a startup, while still utilizing the resources and power of the Mercedes-Benz brand,” according to the statement from Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, which added that the company’s parent automaker plans to have 10 all-electric models on the market by 2022.
While the race accelerates between automakers trying to get out ahead in the fast-moving energy storage industry, those working in renewable energy are eager to apply their parent company’s next generation EVs to evolving energy systems.
“You have a really great battery driving in and out of your home,” said Vivint Solar’s Christensen. “You can figure out how you want to leverage that battery.”
Drive your electric car to your solar-powered home, plug it in to charge and enjoy the flexibility provided by the oversized battery parked in the driveway.
It’s a long-sought environmental ideal, but one that may be getting closer to reality as automakers throw their technical expertise and deep pockets more directly into new ventures in the energy business.
All told, Greentech Media counted 10 battery “Gigafactories” in the works worldwide as of late June, although Musk has teased several additional Tesla plants. Along with large-scale projects driven by Tesla and a $500 million-plus Daimler factory being built in Germany, businesses in other industries are also investing in battery production infrastructure, including Johnson Controls and a range of global power company consortiums.
A Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast predicts that major automakers such as Volkswagen and Renault will provide demand for a significant amount of new battery manufacturing capacity expected to come online in the next four years. By 2021, Bloomberg expects capacity to reach 278 gigawatt-hours, up from about 103 gigawatt-hours now.