The U.S. solar power market may be slowing down right now, but automakers aren’t are going pedal to the metal to try to grab the sustainable energy market. Starting early next year, Mercedes Benz owner Daimler, the German auto giant, will begin offering American consumers a garage-mounted battery pack to store energy collected from rooftop solar panels.
Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas is setting up shop in Sunnyvale, California, just 12 miles from the Palo Alto headquarters of Tesla Motors, the electric car manufacturer that’s been marketing the Powerwall, its own branded residential energy storage unit, since last year. Eventually, Daimler has said, it will roll out industrial systems like those that Tesla is already installing
Meanwhile, BMW, Nissan and General Motors all have moved forward with plans to introduce their own versions of these power systems to help renewable-energy-loving homeowners reduce their dependence on their local power grids.
The move is part of a profound shift underway in the auto industry, as autonomous driving, ride-sharing and electric motors seem poised to radically change motorized transport. Car companies see great synergy in their development of electric cars, hoping to carve a niche for themselves in a completely different industry. Whether there’s a large market for home battery storage systems branded with an automaker’s logo remains to be seen, but no maker of electric cars is sitting idle.
“There’s a certain amount of brand desirability around a battery being from Tesla or Mercedes,” Sam Wilkinson, senior researcher of the solar and energy storage industry at IHS Markit, told Salon. “Does the same rationale to the consumer apply in this sector? I’m a little bit skeptical of that, but I think the important thing is to look into the future where the relationship between stationary energy storage and electric vehicles will become much tighter and much more integrated.”
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