Tesla unveiled a line of rechargeable lithium-ion battery products on Thursday night that can use stored solar energy to power homes, businesses and communities.
Speaking at a Tesla facility near Los Angeles, CEO Elon Musk said the $3,500 home unit, called Powerwall, can be mounted to a garage wall or outside the home. A larger product, called Powerpack, can store more energy to power businesses.
The Powerwall has a 10kWh capacity, but nine can be stacked for a total of 90kWh. The Powerpack has a 100kWh capacity and is "infinitely scalable" to power larger facilities and even entire cities, Musk said.
Along with storing solar energy, the batteries can draw energy from the electrical grid during off-peak hours when rates are lower and store it for later use.
Ever the showman, Musk then revealed that the Tesla facility had been off the grid during the event and was using Powerpacks for energy.
"This entire night has been powered by batteries," he said. "Not only that, the batteries were charged by the solar panels on the roof of this building."
Musk began the event by speaking of the tremendous amount of CO2 emissions and how they're projected to rise in the coming years.
"I think we collectively should do something about this and not try to win the Darwin Award," he said, referring to a mock "award" for extreme stupidity leading to death or extinction.
The answer, he said, is the sun.
"You don't have to do anything, it just works," Musk said. "It shows up every day and produces ridiculous amounts of power."
The problem with solar power has been storing energy for use when the sun isn't shining, which requires a battery.
"The issue with existing batteries is that they suck," he said. "They're really horrible. They're expensive. They're unreliable. They're sorta stinky, ugly, bad in every way."
Tesla Energy products aim to change that. They work with existing solar systems and can be integrated with the existing energy grid or even be used to take consumers off the grid completely.
Musk said the larger Tesla Powerpacks could be used in remote locations and developing countries, where there are no transmission lines in place.
Musk spoke repeatedly about changing the world with solar power and batteries, but added that he doesn't expect Tesla to do it alone. As with the company's other patents, Tesla Energy patents will be open source, allowing others -- even competitors -- to use them.
Tesla is entering a market that is expected to grow, but competition will be fierce. Tech giant Samsung already sells a solar storage unit called the ESS that can power homes or commercial spaces, and a Swiss battery startup called Alevo raised $1 billion in private funding last year.