The advent of lithium-ion batteries has dampened the once-booming battery industry. While the Energizer Bunny once ruled supreme, batteries now seem like a quaint novelty of the past — unless you murder a pair a week while playing Call of Duty on your Xbox.
But even the legions of gamers aren’t enough to keep traditional batteries on the map, and it won’t be long until all your electronics can be resuscitated by a USB cable. But the prevalence of traditional batteries haven’t actually gone anywhere. They’ve just evolved — as Panasonic and Tesla recently demonstrated.
Panasonic is the Megatron of electronic goods. Although its catalog of electronics ranges from personal massagers to televisions, Panasonic is still making batteries that you can find next to People magazine in the grocery store checkout line. But the company has also evolved its batteries, which Tesla has been using in electric car battery cells. This week, Tesla and Panasonic announced plans to expand their partnership into the solar arena.
Tesla And Panasonic: A Solar-Powered Future
Tesla announced via press release that the company had entered into a non-binding letter of intent with Panasonic, and plans were underway to begin manufacturing photovoltaic solar cells and modules in Buffalo, New York. Panasonic and Tesla engineers are also building a battery cell assembly line at the sprawling Tesla Gigafactory, located in Nevada.
Aside from electric cars cutting carbon emissions, producing battery cells within the US means more jobs and a stronger economy — and slashing transportation emissions by refusing to import batteries from offshore.
The upcoming merger of Tesla and SolarCity was given a shout-out on the press release by Tesla co-founder and CTO, JB Straubel:
“We are excited to expand our partnership with Panasonic as we move towards a combined Tesla and SolarCity. By working together on solar, we will be able to accelerate production of high-efficiency, extremely reliable solar cells and modules at the best cost.”
Critical reception to the Tesla SolarCity merger has been tepid at best, with some accusing Elon Musk’s ambition of eclipsing his business savvy. Yahoo speculated that Musk should abandon one of his three projects (Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity) and focus on one. But Musk has no intention of doing so.
Other detractors have moaned that Musk is simply swallowing SolarCity to absorb $2.5 billion dollars worth of debt at a time when shares are sinking. While this may be partly true, if Musk and Panasonic are planning to create and manufacture a revolutionary new solar panel for automobiles, it seems logical that the panel could also transfer to residential power.
In fact, Musk has already announced the arrival of the Solar Roof, although its official announcement has been pushed back to Wednesday. Details are sparse about the project, but we expect that Tesla and Panasonic plan to hit the production line soon.
What The Merger Means For Tesla
Musk’s master plan varies from venture to venture, but if one thing is consistent, it is his devotion to saving humanity from itself. Musk wants us to sever our dependence on fossil fuels and have a plan B in space travel if we’ve already broken the world beyond repair.
Although Tesla is a zero-emissions car, the electricity that runs it is generated by burning coal. This could change if Panasonic and Tesla discover how to produce a car that could be powered by photovoltaic cells — like the cells they plan to develop.
As technology begins to push back against high-cost installations and fixed year contracts, the solar industry is expected to boom. Some estimate that as much as 50% of our energy in 2050 will come from solar power. But the price point, and aesthetics, continue to stand in the way of mass adoption of solar.
Bill Ellard, an economist for the American Solar Energy Society, said as much to the Guardian. “That’ll be the battle – the cost factor, but if SolarCity works with some of the major homebuilders and they can invent their own systems, I think there’s a play there.”
We anxiously await Musk’s announcement on Wednesday. Stay tuned!