Mercedes-Benz has tapped Utah-based solar company Vivint Solar to bring its home battery storage solution to the United States for the first time. Vivint will start selling the Mercedes home batteries to new customers only in California in the second quarter of this year.
Mercedes splits up its home batteries differently from Tesla, its most visible competitor in this space, though they’re functionally the same — the batteries let homeowners store and save electricity generated by solar panels so it can be used around the clock. Tesla’s $5,500 Powerwall 2 has a 13.5kWh capacity, and customers can buy up to 10 of those to scale to their needs. Mercedes’ home batteries, on the other hand, have a smaller capacity of 2.5kWh, and customers can scale a total of eight of them for a more modest 20kWh.
Vivint’s offerings will be cheaper, though. The company plans to sell a basic package of a 2.5kWh for $5,000 when paired with solar panels, while the complete 20kWh system will run around $13,000, including installation.
“There’s not a need for a shark mentality”
Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas CEO Boris von Bormann says he’s not worried about competition or comparisons to Tesla. “The market is big enough that there are several companies in this space that can coexist and do really well, so there’s not a need for a shark mentality out there to grab market share from others,” von Bormann tells The Verge.
Vivint Solar has been around since 2011, but never expanded beyond solar panels and, through a sister company, smart home installations. “I wasn’t interested in the chemistry associated with doing energy storage,” Vivint Solar CEO David Bywater tells The Verge. “So we talked to a whole bunch of companies, and through this process we felt very strongly that Mercedes-Benz was the right partner for us.”
Von Bormann feels the same way. Mercedes’ parent company Daimler has been selling its home batteries in Germany and the UK after announcing the product in 2015. But Mercedes was waiting for “a partner that has a national footprint that has a high quality standard in their installation and in the way they present the company” in the US, which von Bormann calls a “key market.”
Both von Bormann and Bywater think their companies can take advantage of the growing interest in solar energy despite the uncertainty the new administration has brought to the industry. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan in favor of emphasizing coal, and another that could expand offshore drilling for oil and gas. His energy plan doesn’t mention solar or other renewable energy sources, and his administration’s 2018 budget proposal includes deep cuts to related agencies, like the one that helped drive down the cost of solar in the first place. It’s not exactly the friendliest time or place to launch a home storage solution for solar panels.
“Will there be some [negative] influence by the current administration? Obviously. Hopefully not to the point that it hinders the industry,” von Bormann says. But he thinks recent evidence of broad (and in some cases bipartisan) support of solar is a sign that the market’s growth can’t be stopped. “Solar makes sense. No matter where you stand on which side of the aisle, hopefully, at some point, sense prevails.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the 2.5kWh battery’s $5,000 would include solar panels. A representative for Vivint has clarified that the price of the panels are not included in that package.