This story is from the 2016 Access 25: How Mobility is Reshaping the Globe. Explore more from this issue

The Battery Wars

A host of companies are competing to transform our approach to power.

First it was electric cars. Then space flight and satellite Wi-Fi. Now Elon Musk wants to light up your home with green energy. The key component in that strategy: the Tesla Powerwall, a lithium-ion battery that will allow people to collect, use and store solar energy.

But this time Musk has plenty of power-hungry competitors with innovative and lower-cost products, including Eos Energy Storage, Aquion Energy and Alevo. Those names might not be familiar, but perhaps you’ve heard of another: Apple, which was granted a portable fuel cell patent in 2015.

So what might these batteries provide? Visionaries see new types of electricity distribution and use, including microgrids and smartgrids, that would allow small clusters of businesses and homeowners to generate and share their own electricity, while cutting dependence on fossil fuels.

The interest is there: Tesla’s Powerwall is sold out through 2016. Utilities might fight these new types of energy storage sources, should their price come down enough to make them widely attractive. Or they might find ways to incorporate the storage sources into their own grids, potentially saving money for both utilities and consumers.

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