Battery Battle

Daimler Takes on Tesla

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Plugged in, powered up, Daimler's in the game.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Tesla and Daimler’s commitment to battery development proves that harnessing solar power is a viable future energy source, while competition in this field will ultimately benefit consumers by driving down battery prices.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Tesla is charging $3,000 for its entry-level package.
    • Daimler’s energy storage device is made by its subsidiary, Deutsche ACCUmotive.
    • Tesla will also use its lithium-ion battery to ensure optimal capacity utilization in the company’s Gigafactory now under construction in Nevada.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

When Tesla, the American pioneer in the electric car market, announced in April that it was entering the business of stationary energy storage systems, its market value increased by $2 billion (€1.83 billion).

When German automaker Daimler announced similar plans on Thursday, its share price declined by more than 1 percent.

While the differences in shareholder behavior are hard to explain, the two projects are comparable in many ways. Both involve solving the problem that opponents of solar energy have always waved in the face of sun-power advocates: the question of “what happens when the sun doesn’t shine?”

The energy storage units now being sold by Tesla and Daimler could solve the problem, by storing energy during peak times and releasing it when it is needed, regardless of whether the sun is shining.

The manufacturers hope to see high demand in the United States, with its ailing power grid that is often overloaded in the summer months.

If electric cars are to make the leap into the mass market, battery prices need to drop significantly.

Daimler, which develops its technology at subsidiary company Deutsche ACCUmotive, expects to begin selling its first batteries in early summer.

Tesla is charging $3,000 for its entry-level package. Daimler also aims to be competitive, said Harald Krüger, head of electric product development at Mercedes-Benz Cars. In Germany, private citizens will be able to purchase the Daimler devices through a joint venture with German utility EnBW.

Daimler WTB 2014

Tesla is working hand-in-hand with Hamburg-based green energy provider Lichtblick. On an international level, both companies plan to enter into agreements with energy providers and local distribution partners.

For both Tesla and Daimler, the new technology provides an opportunity to broaden their investments in battery technology. Tesla’s Powerwall lithium-ion battery is partly intended to ensure optimal capacity utilization in the company’s Gigafactory now under construction. The Nevada plant is scheduled for completion in 2017 and will produce batteries for Tesla cars. The idea behind the factory is simple: If electric cars are to make the leap into the mass market, battery prices need to drop significantly.

Daimler is taking the same approach. It is now boosting production at its battery plant in the town of Kamenz in Saxony, and plans to invest €100 million in additional upgrades at the plant.

Daimler has also had positive experiences with its energy storage project in the industrial sector. A first storage unit with a capacity of 500 kilowatt-hours is already connected to the grid in Kamenz, where it helps to smooth out peaks in demand.


Video: Tesla’s Elon Musk presents the battery system, April 2015.

 

Automotive correspondent Christian Schnell reports from the Düsseldorf bureau. To contact him: schnell@handelsblatt.com.

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