Tesla has started rolling out its new Backup Gateway 2 hardware with its Powerwalls, resulting in a much cleaner look for the overall installation. Instead of installing its communication hardware in standard grey electrical enclosures, the new Gateways come packaged up in a beautiful new enclosure that mimics the look of the Tesla Powerwall 2s themselves.
We spied the new Backup Gateway 2 hardware in a new episode of Fully Charged as host Robert Llewellyn walked through the installation process of his new Tesla Founders Series Powerwall 2. Ironically, his signature edition came without Elon Musk’s signature (which it was supposed to include). I’m betting it’s because Elon is planning to make the trip out to the UK to chat with Robert and sign it in person, but time will tell whether that comes to pass or not. In the meantime, Robert signed it for Elon as a placeholder.
We discovered that Tesla would be updating the look of the Powerwall Gateways late last year when Tesla recalibrated its Powerwall product family, raising prices just over 10% at the same time. The new look raises the bar for the aesthetics on perhaps the most critical piece of hardware in the installation of a Powerwall. Check out the 3 minute video at the bottom of this article for a unique look at how to connect to the Backup Gateway.
That’s because the Powerwall Gateway is much more than just an LTE connection to the world — though, it does provide a communications link to the outside world. On the recent Powerwall installation at my new home, Tesla came out to commission the new system and one of the first steps after everything was bolted in and wired up was to get the communications set up. Unfortunately, our system did not come with the new Powerwall Gateway, but everything inside it is effectively the same and provides the same functionality.
The primary connection for the system to the world is an integrated cellular connection. The Gateway is also typically paired up to the home’s WiFi connection for a lower-cost, higher-bitrate connection to the internet. Finally, for folks with a nearby ethernet connection (remember those clunky old wired things?), the Tesla Powerwall Gateway offers an ethernet connection.
The old form factor of the Gateway had two antennas up top, one for cellular and one for WiFi to keep everything humming along nicely in today’s connected world. Those have since been integrated seamlessly into the new design. Our system was brought online with the cellular connection first, followed by the WiFi connection. We aren’t going to run ethernet to the garage (at least not yet), so we will just keep the system running on WiFi with a cellular backup for the time being.
Tesla’s new Gateway is more than just a data connection, though. Using that data connection, the Gateway serves as the brain for the Powerwalls, telling them what mode to operating in, sending data to and from the owner’s smartphone app, and triggering automatic overrides to standard protocols under special circumstances like in the event of an incoming storm. The Backup Gateway 2’s monitoring of energy usage is revenue grade, meaning it is accurate to within +/- 0.2%.
Finally, the Backup Gateway 2 provides critical safety functionality to the system as the automatic transfer switch. This switch monitors the incoming power from the grid, looking for any issue that would indicate unstable grid power. This could be a full disconnect of grid power, low voltage, fluctuations in the power, or something else. It’s Tesla’s way of putting its finger on the pulse of the grid. The incoming grid power into the house runs through the Backup Gateway 2 and, if an issue is detected, the relay in the automatic transfer switch flips, disconnecting grid power from the home.
When this happens, the Powerwalls are called on to power the now-isolated home and, after a few seconds, for the systems to cut over — everything in the home will then be powered off of the Powerwalls. On the grid side of things, the relay is a key to maintaining the safety of the power system. If the home was to remain connected to the grid when the Powerwalls started pumping power to the house (and the grid) when grid power was down, that power would feed out into the grid, potentially creating an unsafe condition for others working on the grid.
According to its product data sheet, the Backup Gateway 2 can support single-phase or three-phase 220 volt or 440 volt connections, making it an extremely useful piece of hardware.