Mercedes-Benz vies with Tesla in home energy storage space

Daimler-Mercedes-Benz is growing its presence in the residential and commercial energy storage markets.
Published: Thu 25 May 2017

Soon consumers may be giving the same criteria to purchasing a home storage system as they do to their vehicle – luxury like Mercedes-Benz or BMW or more middle of the road like Toyota or Ford?

And will brand loyalty prove to be the drawcard, or will new players such as Tesla win out?

Arguably Tesla has done more to spark consumer interest in electric vehicles (EVs) and as a spin-off for battery applications, home storage, than any other vehicle manufacturer.

Indeed, CEO Elon Musk’s vision links EVs and home storage with rooftop solar PV for consumers offering an end to end home energy system, which has been given substance with the acquisition of SolarCity and the building of the first battery gigafactory in Nevada.

But Tesla isn’t the only vehicle company pursuing this market. In 2016 Nissan went into a partnership with Eaton to provide home storage.

And the latest to enter the market is Daimler/Mercedes-Benz, with a partnership with residential solar provider Vivint Solar in the US, and the foundation laying of a new gigafactory in Germany.

Musk has said that 100 gigafactories would be required the build the battery throughput to transition the world to sustainable energy. With behind the meter, or stationary, storage the ‘missing link’ in the emergence of prosumers, there is clearly potential for this and other gigafactory initiatives that are emerging.

Home energy storage innovation

The partnership between Mercedes-Benz and Vivint Solar follows the former’s entry into the North American market with its subsidiary Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, with responsibility for the development and sale of stationary energy systems for residential, commercial and utility applications in the region.

The two companies will introduce a joint offering that “will provide customers with the German engineering and performance of Mercedes-Benz batteries coupled with Vivint Solar's expertise in designing, installing and servicing solar energy systems,” says the statement on the deal.

“As Mercedes-Benz electrifies its vehicle fleet, solar plus storage is essential to enable those vehicles to be powered by clean energy,” says Boris von Bormann, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas in the statement. “The launch of our home battery system in Europe has been successful and we are thrilled to be working with Vivint Solar to bring a reliable and compelling solar plus storage offering to American homes.”

Mercedes Benz’s foray as a provider of energy storage for residential and commercial use in the European market began in April 2016, with distribution agreements with the Baden-Württemberg energy company EnBW and the German solar company SMA Solar Technology, but without a direct link up with a solar PV system.

Its lithium-ion storage units have 2.5kWh capacity and are scalable up to 20kWh. A more than 80% capacity is claimed after 10 years.

At that time, the company also said three major projects centred on industrial energy storage solutions were under development with the prospect of connecting over 29MWh of battery storage to the grid. This storage would be marketed on Germany's primary energy market to provide balancing services to the grid.

Vivint Solar has installed solar energy systems in more than 100,000 homes across the US, but this will be the first collaboration to integrate batteries with its offering. Initially, the solution will be made available in California where it will be offered directly to homeowners for purchase either outright or via financing.

Systems will be customised to each customer's individual energy consumption needs.

Battery gigafactory

The source of the stationary storage batteries is the Saxon town of Kamenz, where the Li-on batteries for EVs from Mercedes-Benz are also made.

Daimler has been developing a second factory in Kamenz, in the direct vicinity of the existing facilities, which is scheduled to come into operation in mid-2018. Covering an area of around 20ha, the €500m facility will quadruple the production and logistics area in Kamenz to a total of around 80,000m2.

The main output of the factory appears to be destined for e-mobility, although batteries also will be produced for the Mercedes-Benz energy storage units as well as a new 48V on-board power supply system, which is being pioneered in the new generation of the S-Class model.

“The battery factory in Kamenz is an important component in the implementation of our electric offensive,” said Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, at the foundation laying. He promised that by 2022 the company would have more than ten purely electric passenger cars in its series.

The company estimates that the proportion of EVs in the total unit sales of Mercedes-Benz will be between 15% and 25% by 2025.

At the same event, Frank Blome, Managing Director of Daimler’s storage subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive, said the company had delivered more than 80,000 Li-ion batteries to date.

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