Elon Musk, CEO and Chairman of Tesla, put his money where his mouth is (OK, with him being worth nearly USD20bn, he’s hardly on the breadline!) when he claimed he could build the world’s largest lithium ion battery in less than 100 days in the Australian outback. Tesla finished the 100-megawatt battery just 60 days after they started it, at the end of September last year.
The idea came after Musk accepted a bet on Twitter after being asked if he was serious about helping South Australia. The major problem for South Australia is that it has less access to fossil-fuels such as gas and coal, so relies on renewable energy; at 41% one of the highest in the world. Which is all well and good, until the wind stops and the sun goes down, then power has to be imported from ‘peaker’ stations, that can power up to meet demand in the twilight hours. The new battery, which is connected to a wind farm, can power up to 30,000 homes, will stabilise supplies and help stop the blackouts that have blighted the region for many years.
However, although the battery is three times more powerful than the world’s next largest battery, Musk and Tesla will not hold that honour for long. Hyundai Electric & Energy Systems in South Korea is currently building a massive 150-megawatt lithium-ion unit in Ulsan, near the country’s southeast coast. According to Hyundai, the battery will go live in the first quarter of 2018.
Over the last few years billions has been poured into battery research and development, and today we have everything from your humble vacuum cleaner to trucks travelling 500 miles all powered by batteries. This has driven prices lower, with prices for batteries approximately 50% of what they were 3 years ago. And this is just the start. This year, according to Bloomberg, lithium-ion battery projects announced in 2017 were four times that for all of last year, at 1,650 megawatts per hour.
So … although Musk did indeed put his money where his mouth was, the odds were well and truly stacked in his favour!!