Tesla founder Elon Musk has unveiled a ‘revolutionary’ $3,000 (£1,980) battery which he claims can run an entire home for eight hours.
Musk introduced the Powerwall device at a press conference in California last night and said the technology could ‘change the world’.
The device, which could be in homes by the end of summer, will be able to store electricity at night when it is cheaper.
It would then discharge this cheap electricity during the day in quantities large enough to be useful to homes and businesses.
The Powerwall is around three feet wide and four feet tall, weighs 220lbs, and can be installed either on an outside or inside wall of a home.
The ‘daily use’ version has a capacity of 7 kilowatt-hours, which is around a quarter of a home’s daily usage.
Department of Energy figures state that the average U.S. home uses 10,908 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, or just short of 30 per day.
According to that figure, a single, fully-charged Powerwall device would be able to meet a quarter of a home’s energy needs on any given day.
However, it would likely last far less time than eight hours during the mornings and evenings, when homes use the vast majority of their electricity.
Musk said that the devices can be stacked together to provide more energy.
The system would let homeowners with solar panels or other sources of renewable energy easily store their energy at home, rather than the current model whereby they sell power back to energy suppliers as it is produced, then buy it again during peak times.
It could also let savvy consumers take advantage of power companies’ lower rates during the night and use the cheaper, stored energy during peak periods.
According to tech site Mashable, Musk told attendees at the event: ‘Our goal is to fundamentally change the way the world uses energy.
‘It sounds crazy, but we want to change the entire energy infrastructure of the world to zero carbon.’
As well as the daily-use model, Tesla will also launch a 10 kilowatt-hour backup battery, designed to tide homes over during power blackouts, such as those caused by storms.
Marketing material for the device, published late Thursday on Tesla’s website, says: ‘Powerwall is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or when utility rates are low, and powers your home in the evening.
‘It also fortifies your home against power outages by providing a backup electricity supply.
‘Automated, compact and simple to install, Powerwall offers independence from the utility grid and the security of an emergency backup.’
Musk said that he hopes to sell hundreds of millions of the devices, which he touted as a vast improvement over currently-available models. In the past he has said such early batteries ‘suck’.
He later added that the entire showcase had been powered by a huge array of Powerwall batteries.
Tesla also unveiled the ‘Powerpack’, which is the larger scale version of the Powerwall.
It describes it as an ‘infinitely scalable system’ that can work for businesses, in industrial applications and public utility companies.
It comes in 100 kWh battery blocks that can scale from 500 kWH all the way up to 10 MWh. ‘Our goal here is to change the way the world uses energy at an extreme scale,’ it said.
The latest announcement builds on previous Tesla products, principally its range of cars.
Last year, Tesla Motors unveiled plans for a ‘Gigafactory’ designed to help the firm ramp up production of batteries for its electric cars, and now homes.
Tesla said the factory will cut current battery production costs by up to 30 per cent, and will be powered predominantly by renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
Elsewhere, Mr Musk is already the chairman of SolarCity – a company that offers solar power systems for homes – and Tesla’s home battery could be an extension of this.
These batteries 3ft tall (0.9 metres), and can be controlled remotely using a smartphone app. Tesla would not comment on whether the new batteries will work in the same way.
Home battery packs could disrupt the utility market. In 2013, the Edison Electric Institute, the trade group for investor-owned electric companies, issued a report warning about disruption.
‘One can imagine a day when battery storage technology or micro turbines could allow customers to be electric grid independent,’ the report said.
Deutsche Bank estimates sales of stationary battery storage systems for homes and commercial uses could yield as much as $4.5 billion in revenue for Tesla.
Analysts expect Tesla will build stationary storage systems around the same basic batteries it will produce for its vehicles at a large factory the company is building in Nevada.
Stationary storage systems could be part of a fossil-fuel free lifestyle in which an individual has solar panels on the roof, generating electricity that can power home appliances and recharge batteries in a Tesla Model S sedan parked in the garage.
Government subsidies and a dramatic drop in the price of lithium ion batteries are drawing more companies into the home electricity storage business.
Tesla has so far received $1.1 million from California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program. Tesla has received or is poised to receive state funding for about 600 storage projects in California, according to data from the state.
Though valued at just $200 million in 2012, the energy storage industry is expected to grow to $19 billion by 2017, according to research firm IHS CERA.