Tesla Motors faces competition for customers and subsidies

Tesla Motors’ plan to generate revenue by repackaging electric car batteries as home and business power storage systems faces stiff competition for both customers and the government subsidies that are critical to the market’s growth.

At the unveiling of its suite of storage battery systems on Thursday, chief executive Elon Musk said at a company event near Los Angeles that the new Tesla Energy was far ahead of its competition in offering an integrated system for generating solar power and storing it on-site.

“We’re just not aware of who would even really be second, honestly,” said Musk.

Several analysts see a multi-billion dollar market in its infancy as power companies, businesses and home owners, partly reacting to government incentives, buy systems that stabilise the grid.

They provide backup for green energy systems which otherwise could be threatened when clouds move over a solar field or the wind died on a windmill farm.

Tesla is far from the only company offering such systems, and industry insiders say the cost of a Tesla system, which starts at $3,000 for a home storage battery pack, is in line with the rest of the market.

Established and deep-pocketed energy and technology players such as Samsung SDI, LG Chem, and Saft Groupe are just a few of the names marketing products similar to Tesla’s — small batteries to pair with solar panels at homes and businesses and much larger ones to help utilities shore up power grid reliability.

An array of small companies are also making waves in the field.

Stem, which pairs batteries with software systems for businesses and is backed by Total and General Electric, last year landed a major contract with the California utility Southern California Edison.

Tesla and solar installer SolarCity, where Musk is also chairman, have been selling small quantities of storage systems for years, and competition for the limited subsidies has grown.

In 2011, Tesla and SolarCity were nearly alone in claiming incentives for on-site storage systems in California, data shows. Now companies such as Coda Energy and startups such as Stem and Green Charge Networks are picking up hefty shares of projects.


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