Branding is one thing Tesla has absolutely nailed. Well, one of many things. This week (or month) provided a rather obvious example of that for me. But first, a little background:
As I think anyone who follows Tesla rather closely knows, Panasonic is Tesla’s big battery partner. That makes it the top EV battery manufacturer in the world (in terms of 2014 output). AESC, majority owned by Nissan, is #2, providing batteries for the world’s top-selling electric car (the Nissan LEAF). #3 is LG Chem, which provides batteries for electric vehicles produced by General Motors (GM), Renault (which produces popular EV models for the European market), Ford, Volkswagen, Kia, Hyundai, Audi, and now Daimler (which was previously getting its batteries from Tesla/Panasonic). Obviously, LG Chem provides quite a competitive battery.
On to this month: As everyone in the universe knows (or so it seems), Elon Musk announced less than a month ago that Tesla would be announcing a “Major new Tesla product line” on April 30. It was rather obvious this would be a line of battery storage products, and that has recently been confirmed.
Interestingly, Eguana Technologies (which provides power control and conversion solutions for distributed energy storage systems) and LG Chem just announced a residential energy storage system for North America (3 days ago, on Earth Day). The “AC Battery” could also be used by commercial and industrial consumers, the companies note. So, basically, this is a direct competitor to what Tesla is about to announce.
Perhaps the timing is coincidence. Of course, Eguana and LG Chem must have been working on this deal for awhile, and Earth Day certainly seems like a good time to launch such a product. Still, though, I do wonder if they didn’t speed up their product launch in order to try to steal some thunder from Tesla’s announcement. The product won’t actually be available until the summer, according to the press release.
In the end, though, what we’re seeing is that Tesla holds a big advantage in terms of branding. There’s speculation running across the tech, investment, and green web about Tesla’s upcoming announcement, as well as on TV media. I’ve only seen the Eguana and LG Chem news on one site, Green Car Congress (which is pretty obsessive about nabbing press releases at all related to the green car market).
The big question is, “How will LG Chem’s and Tesla’s products compare?” That’s going to be hard to say without getting a lot more information from LG Chem (and Tesla, of course). But here are some of the initial details, via Green Car Congress:
- Basic capacity = 6.4 kWh.
- “The Eguana power control system manages system power flow and handles the core power conversion functions—AC→DC and DC→AC—as well as connectivity with power grid. It also hosts the consumer gateway and battery management system.”
- “The AC Battery is pre-integrated and fully certified, and requires only a grid connection and a dispatch signal to provide a fully functional and durable energy storage installation to the consumer. The AC Battery provides flexibility for system aggregators which want to deploy it as part of new solar storage installations or as a retrofit to solar PV installations already in place.”
“The AC Battery can be used to store electricity from solar and use it during evening hours, or can be used by fleet aggregators to provide utility grid management services including voltage control, frequency regulation, demand response and load balancing,” Eguana and LG Chem write.
LG Chem Senior Vice President Sunghoon Jang also notes, “We are going to strengthen the partnership with Eguana and put our best effort to stand up as the No.1 battery maker in the North American ESS market.” No small aim, and very clearly in competition with Tesla (and many others).
Obviously, we’re going to have to see prices in order to compare the products, as well as battery lifetime expectations and other details. Anyone want to take the lead on that once Tesla and LG Chem announce more details?