Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk has flagged a big change in battery storage metals, and predicted the company will develop a terrawatt hour global battery storage business as the world transitions to wind and solar power.
The forecasts for battery storage are significant, given that Tesla delivered only 3.99 gigawatt hours of battery storage in calendar 2021, a rise of 32 per cent on 2020 (see graph below), but just a fraction (less than four per cent) of the terawatt hour market he predicts.
Tesla is now building its own dedicated stationary storage factory which will focus on the utility scale Megapack batteries and the smaller scale PowerWalls. But Musk also flagged a big change in metals used, away from nickel and the previously flagged cobalt, and towards iron and manganese.
“We do think that all stationary storage – PowerWall and MegaPack – will transition to an iron based system. Basically a non nickel system. Manganese could also be part of the future, but primarily iron,” Musk said at the quarterly earnings report.
“So there’s a ridiculous amount of iron on earth, and there is a ridiculous amount of lithium. So we really expect all stationary storage to transition to iron over time. And manganese is like a wildcard.”
The shift is not surprising, given that battery storage metals are already changing for a variety of reasons – supply and equity issues, and reduced fire risk. Tesla Megapacks last year changed formula to lithium iron phosphate from lithium ion, for instance.
Musk said that the supply shortage – both chips and other materials – had forced Tesla to give priority to its electric vehicle production over battery storage in the past year, but the scale of the stationary energy system would be huge.
“We did short-change the energy business last year in that vehicle took priority over storage size, (but) we do we do see a terawatt hour per year energy business. It’s a lot, it’s so vast.
“It will grow faster than the vehicle business. It needs to if our primary mission is to accelerate the transition sustainable energy. That’s always been our primary mission and we’re trying to stay true to that.”
The results presentation said that the growth in battery storage was mainly driven by Megapack deliveries, which in the past year have included the biggest battery in Australia, the 300MW/450MWh Victorian Big Battery, (pictured at top) and the smaller 50MW/75MWh Wallgrove battery in NSW.