Is the Tesla Powerwall 2 Really a Game Changer?

by Anna Gretz
November 17, 2016
Home Battery

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the release of the Tesla Powerwall 2 home battery recently, and it didn’t take long for people to start classifying it as a pinnacle moment in home energy storage history. The headlines about the Tesla Powerwall 2 rolled in with words like “revolutionary,” “nothing like it,” and the ever-coveted “game changer.” The Powerwall 2 has updated features, an attractive design, and an impressive price point. But is it really a game changer? Let’s take a look at the specs of the Powerwall 2 and the home battery market and see what conclusion we reach.

What’s new about the Powerwall 2?

The Powerwall 2 looks a lot like the original Powerwall, in that it’s a large white rectangle with indoor and outdoor wall-mounted capabilities. Though the outward appearance of the Powerwall 2 closely resembles Tesla’s first Powerwall, the biggest difference between the two models are on the inside.

The biggest difference? The Powerwall 2.0 has over twice the energy storage capacity. This is extremely significant. With 14 kWh of energy storage capacity, the Powerwall 2 could keep your light on, your sockets charged, and your refrigerator running for an entire day in the case of a power outage (or indefinitely, if you’re hooked up to solar.)

The doubled storage capacity of Tesla’s Powerwall 2 didn’t come with a price hike, however. The newly released Powerwall will be offered by Tesla with a starting cost of $5,500 per unit. Musk announced that the Powerwall 2 will be production presently, with installations starting in early December.

What else is new about the Powerwall 2? The “fully integrated Tesla inverter.” The Tesla inverter matters quite a bit, since other residential energy storage units on the market don’t offer an integrated inverter, which tacks on additional hardware and installation costs.

The increased storage capacity and stable price of the Powerwall 2, as well as the Tesla inverter, make it a stand-out choice in the home battery industry, even when placed next to the original Tesla Powerwall.

Who is the Powerwall 2 for?

Though Tesla Motors’ electric cars are still being marketed to higher-end consumers, Musk made it clear that the Powerwall 2 was for a much, much wider audience. In fact, Musk told reporters in a Q&A following the Powerwall 2 release event that he “expects to sell more Powerwalls than cars.” With a $5,500 price tag, he could very well be on the right track. Tesla is banking on customers in areas of the world where power isn’t reliable, readily available, or affordable to all.

What is the Powerwall 2’s biggest competition?

Tesla’s well-known name and wealth of resources equip the company well to become a major player in the home energy storage realm, but it’s definitely not the only player. Other companies, like LG and sonnenBatterie have released home battery storage solutions onto the market alongside Tesla’s Powerwall, though many have focused on overseas markets like Australia and Germany. Both of these markets have higher electricity rates than the United States, making their higher price points more economically viable. This is exactly why they’re not very fierce competition for Tesla’s Powerwall in the United States.

Let’s do a direct comparison of the Tesla Powerwall 2 with the LG Chem RESU, and the sonnenBatterie eco compact:

Tesla’s Powerwall dwarfs the other two in energy capacity, with 14 kWh. The RESU and the compact only offer 6.5 and 4 kWh, respectively. The cost of each model before installation (with inverter cost included, if necessary) is pretty comparable; the Tesla Powerwall 2 comes out at $5,500, with the eco compact following at $5,950, and the RESU close behind at around $6,000. Though the prices are similar, the cost per kWh shows why Tesla’s Powerwall 2 is so far ahead of the competition. The Powerwall boasts only $393 per kWh, while the other two models are 3 to 5 times more (the RESU at $923 per kWh, and the eco compact coming in at $1,488.)

[It’s worth mentioning that there are a few other, smaller competitors that we did not include in this comparison, including the Start-Up Orison, which includes only 2.2 kWh of storage, and the Sunverge, which costs between $8,000 and $20,000. They were not included because their storage capacity or price point put them outside the parameters of effective comparison.]

With these numbers, it would be hard for anyone to justify buying anything but the Powerwall 2.

The value of the Powerwall 2 depends on how long the battery pack will last. Tesla reports confidently that the Powerwall 2 home battery comes with a 10-year warranty with unlimited cycles. This is an impressive warranty, and solidifies the predicted value per kWh of the Powerwall 2.

Is Tesla’s Powerwall 2 truly a game changer?

Nothing else on the market so far really compares to the value and features of Tesla’s Powerwall 2. Does that bump it into “game changer” status?

The residential energy storage industry is waiting for a breakthrough product to hit the tipping point.

As Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently puts it, “The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” We may have to wait to see how wide and far Tesla’s Powerwall 2 will spread, and how it will influence the home battery market, and home owners around the world. But the epidemic spread of a new product, or a new way of thinking about home energy is paradoxical. Gladwell said that “in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first.”

Perhaps Tesla’s Powerwall 2 is one in a series of small movements that will push society towards the widespread adoption of residential energy storage, and with it, a more secure energy future.