Tesla Introduces Whole-Home Batteries

Tesla batteriesIt’s easy to imagine your clock, cell phone, or cordless screwdriver running on a battery, but how about your whole house? Elon Musk’s innovative company Tesla Motors, maker of the popular line of electric vehicles, announced recently, that it will begin production on such a whole-home battery within the next six months.

Imagine being able to store power, such as the energy gathered by a rooftop solar system or a wind turbine, and store it until needed–or even sell it back to the grid, via reverse metering. No more worries about ever-mounting utility costs or power loss due to inclement weather; the feeling of independence and the comfort of acting responsibly about the environment would be enjoyable, as well. These batteries might make that dream of freedom a reality.

Tesla’s plan is ambitious and optimistic, but what challenges might the company face in actually bringing these batteries to market? Well, the obvious one is price–batteries are extremely expensive, as anyone who has fretted over the cost of even a pack of AAs knows. And batteries that could power an entire house would not only be expensive, they would be very large and heavy (a sizable part of the weight of an electric vehicle is simply from its battery).

Because of their size and expense, these home batteries are not something that you would want to replace on a regular basis, so they would need to be reliable enough to last for years, charging and discharging on a regular basis. Even power companies–who could use large batteries to store excess energy produced during less-demanding hours in order to bolster supply during peak times–are only deploying them in a limited and somewhat experimental way, so far.

If even utilities are a bit leery of adopting batteries on a grand scale, how readily could they become staples in a residential neighborhood? Tesla understands it might be slow going for a while, but the company is determined to keep pushing inexorably toward a greener future.

Besides being Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk also chairs the board of Solar City, a company that provides solar power systems for homes and businesses. He can see that more and more homeowners are adopting solar systems, especially as the price has steadily dropped over the past few years. Batteries that store the solar-produced power and discharge it when needed make perfect sense with this type of system, since the sun doesn’t shine all the time. The inevitable growth in demand for the batteries should lower costs, just as it has done with the systems themselves. Whereas before, most of us suburbanites could only dream of powering our homes with sunshine, it’s becoming more and more within our grasp.

Another way Tesla plans to reduce cost to individual consumers is by mass production. Tesla’s “Gigafactory”, currently under construction near Reno, Nevada, will be the world’s largest battery factory, enabling Tesla to help alleviate cost concerns by having the ability to produce the batteries in large quantities. As for any concerns as to reliability, Tesla’s years of deploying the lithium-ion technology in its car batteries has provided a good track record.

Many other companies are poised on the brink of jumping into the storage-battery game and will be watching Tesla’s every innovative move. Even if not all the power is yet produced by clean sources, the use of batteries will still help curb the overproduction of power by the non-clean ones, and that’s a win by any reckoning.

See Also: Oncor Proposes Battery Storage for Texas Electricity Grid



Texas Offers Incentive For Electric Vehicles – Excluding Tesla

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has announced details of the state’s new alternative fuel vehicle rebate program.  The state will offer $2,500 for the purchase of light duty vehicles powered by electricity, compressed natural gas (CNG), or propane.  Consumers can also receive up to $2,500 for leasing these vehicles.  In order to get the full rebate, however, the lease must be at least 4 years.  Shorter leases are eligible for lesser rebates.

Authorized by the Texas State Legislature last year, the program is relatively modest.  The program will last until June 2015 or until the $7.7 million in funding is exhausted; whichever comes first. The maximum number of vehicles allowed in the program is 2,000 electric vehicles and 2,000 propane or CNG vehicles.

The rebates could be combined with other incentive programs including federal electric vehicle incentive programs.  In order to be eligible, the vehicle must be purchased through a franchised dealer in the state of Texas.  If the vehicle is purchased from an out-of-state dealer or directly from the manufacturer it will not be eligible for the rebate program.  That means would-be Tesla owners will not be eligible for rebates since the Tesla sales model doesn’t include franchised dealers.

To Apply for the Rebate Call 1-800-919-TERP.

See Also: Far From A Burdon, Electric Vehicles Will Assist The Grid



Luxury Electric Car Confrontation: BMW i3 Challenges Tesla

Tesla motors has company in the luxury electric vehicle market. BMW recently revealed its first mass-produced electric vehicle, dubbed the BMW i3. According to Business Insider, this futuristic-looking two-door coup will hit the U.S. market in 2014 and retail for $41,000. That’s significantly cheaper than the Tesla Model S electric car, which starts at a base price of $69,900. Electric car shoppers could be eligible for federal tax credits on both vehicles, but the BMW i3’s lower price tag will appeal to a broader range of shoppers.

With a unique design, an impressive engine the features immediate full torque and an available home charger that operates 80 percent faster than normal outlets, the BMW i3 is a welcome addition to the electric car market. With EV sales on the rise, expect to see plenty of i3s on the road come 2014.

The Specs

Most EV shoppers start their investigation of a new vehicle with the same question: How far can it go? Using its electrical engine, the BMW i3 can travel between 80 and 100 miles in between charges. That’s slightly more than most EVs, which typically have a 70 to 80 mile range. Unlike many EVs, which need speed to build torque, full torque is available immediately on the BMW i3. An intelligent heating and cooling system keeps the lithium-ion high-voltage battery at the prime temperature for peak performance. BMW includes an 8-year, 100,000 mile warranty for the battery. Shoppers who are on the fence about the range may opt for the optional two-cylinder, 34-horsepower gas engine that doubles the range. It may increase your carbon footprint, but the $4,000 option also makes the car much more convenient. Drivers looking to offset this small gasoline engine may consider eco-friendly TireBuyer Kumho tires, which cut rubber dust emissions by 10 percent.

i3 Vs. Tesla Model S

It’s natural to compare the BMW i3 to Tesla’s Model S, the polarizing EV that earned scathing reviews from the New York Times and the title of Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year. But as their price tags indicate, the i3 and Model S aren’t exactly direct competitors. Tesla offers three different batteries in the Model S, all of which outperform the BMW i3’s lithium-ion battery. The Tesla Model S features a classic, sporty design, while the i3 is more likely to turn heads because of its unusual look.

Electric Car Sales Grow

Both BMW and Tesla will be encouraged by 2013’s EV sales numbers. Electric Vehicle sales more than doubled in the first half of 2013 compared to the same period of time in 2012, according to Autos.aol.com. Nearly 42,000 EVs have hit the road since January, and 36 percent of all EVs on the right were purchased in the last six months. We may not see 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015 like President Obama suggested, but the news is encouraging for an industry that hasn’t been putting its foot on the gas (or electric battery). The BMW i3 is one of the most anticipated vehicles of 2014, and could boost this EV surge even more.

Electronic Cars Simply Can’t Be Treated Like Gasoline-Powered Cars

By now New York Times environmental reporter John Broder’s disappointment with his test-drive of the all-electric Tesla Model S is almost legendary. He contended that he was able to drive the car only about half of its promised 265-mile estimated range. As a result, he has stamped uncertainty—many would say unfairly—all over a glamorous, prestigious iteration of a gasoline-free vehicle.

How Reliable Are They?

In the process, however, he has raised some important questions. How reliable is a Tesla Model S sedan, really? And how does it compare to other electric models? Here is what you can actually expect from the most popular gasoline-free gems on the market today.

CNET.com’s editors concluded, “The 2012 Tesla Model S sets a new standard for cars of the 21st century by…incorporating a long-range, powerful, and efficient electric drive train.” And, their editors noted in response to Broder, “You cannot treat an electric car, given current technology, like you would a gasoline-powered car. You need to be much more mindful of range issues, where you can charge, and how long it will take.”

Ford, Nissan Electric Vehicles

Other electric vehicles also rate well with experts. We checked out a Nissan Leaf at a Peoria car dealership and found that the suggested retail is $37,200, compared to the Model S at $57,900. CNET’s bottom line for the Leaf? “The 2012 Nissan Leaf offers a good blend of affordability and all-around performance for city dwellers and suburbanites looking to go zero-emission.” Hybridcars.com calls the Leaf “the top contender for first affordable mainstream all-electric car.” And AutoGuide.com said, “Designed to work within an urban environment, the Leaf certainly succeeds.”

Ford’s 2013 Focus Electric vehicle retails for $39,200. CNET’s conclusion on this car is that “its short driving range and long recharge times limit (its) suitability to some specific lifestyles, but it is a very high-tech car that should delight early adopter types.” Hybridcars.com observed that “the Focus Electric and Leaf have close EPA ratings for both driving range and efficiency. The Leaf is rated at 73 miles of driving range, with a rating of 99 MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent). The Focus Electric (boasts) 76 miles of range and a 105 MPGe rating.”

Mitsubishi’s Egg

There’s also the 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV is the value-priced choice among electric vehicles. Starting at $29,125, it features a look straight out of a comic book. The little egg-shaped four-door hatchback can seat four adults and has an EPA estimated driving range of 62 miles with a top speed of 81 mph.

Volvo and Toyota both have developed all-electric models, but have not yet introduced them to the U.S. retail market. Stay tuned. Now that $4-a-gallon gas has returned to many places in the U.S., Volvo’s C30 Electric and Toyota’s FT-EV are sure to be enhanced and made available for sale in America in the next few years.

All-electric cars are still considered novelties by most American drivers. Sometimes, when an unexpected negative review is published, drivers become even more skeptical of the practicality of this class of cars. But by the end of this decade, we’re confident electric vehicles will have become completely mainstream.

It’s Electric (Vehicles): From Practical to Pricey, a Review of Cute Cars and Luxury Options

2012 Fisker Karma

Price, range, efficiency and style all play a part in deciding whether to drive hybrid or electric. Options range from cute and compact to elaborate and expensive. Driving green doesn’t always mean you have to look like it, but it depends on your preference and pocketbook. Here’s a review of five electric and hybrid cars that fall into nearly every category.

Honda Insight (Hybrid)

When it was introduced in 2009, the Honda Insight was hailed as real competition to the Toyota Prius. It boasted a 40-mpg-plus fuel-efficiency, and cost less than $20,000 a price that fell nearly $2,000 below the least expensive Prius, according to Hybridcars.com. Toyota fought back by lowering its Prius price, but Honda didn’t give up. In 2012, the Insight saw updates that included minor changes to exterior and interior styling, and a slight increase in fuel economy. Now this hybrid starts at $18,300 with 41 city/44 highway/42 combined EPA-approved MPG. It touts the shape that’s begun to define hybrid and electric vehicles: a smooth front four-door hatchback with a high, short tail.

2012 Mitsubishi iMiEV (Electric)

The iMiEV came straight from a comic book, or so it seems. Its egg-shaped design is known to turn heads and elicit smiles. This cute car proudly putters around as an affordable, available, all-electric coupe. Before incentives, the iMiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle) starts at $29,125. Its rating of 125 city/99 highway/112 combined MPGe surpasses all but two EVs in the combined MPGe category of the EPA’s rankings of most fuel-efficient electric 2013 models. Listed in the Guinness World Records as the first electric car to eclipse 10,000 sales, the iMiEV is a popular and reliable choice.

2012 Nissan Leaf (Electric)

Promoted as “the world’s first affordable, zero-emission car,” the Nissan LEAF has been a media star electric car since it was introduced in 2011, according to Hybridcars.com. Available at sales lots from Boston to Peoria car dealerships, this sensible solution offers a fuel-efficient, distinctly-designed option combined with a pleasant driving experience promise. It is an exclusive model, meaning it is not an electrified version of a gas-powered car like the Ford Focus Electric. Not necessarily categorized as “cute” nor is it luxurious, the LEAF is an affordable option for an average green driver. Starting at $35,200 before incentives, the LEAF has an EPA electric driving range rating of 73 miles per charge. It garners 106 city/92 highway and 99 combined MPGe.

Tesla Model S (Electric)

Pricier than the average electric car, the Tesla Model S is also nicer than most. Its clean design, use of space and gorgeous interior make it a tempting choice, though not for most mainstream buyers. Tagged at $52,400 after a $7,500 federal tax credit, the 60 kWh version has an EPA-approved combined MPGe of 95. According to Hybridcars.com, it has an estimated range of 160 miles per charge. The 85 kWh Model S Performance version, which includes upgraded interior, suspension and wheels, will set you back $87,400 after the tax credit. It gets 89 combined MPGe.

2012 Fisker Karma (Hybrid)

Undeniably one of the most lavish options in the market, the Fisker Karma is the hybrid choice of Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber. Unfortunately for those two celebrities and the other 2,000 Fisker Karma owners, the car was recalled in August because of a small cooling fan fire, according to the LA Times. Don’t worry, though. The car company has plans to replace the cooling fans and possibly launch a less pricey second model soon. The current model starts at $111,000 and gathers 20 city/21 highway/20 combined EPA-approved MPG, 54 MPGe and 22 miles in electric range.