Tesla co-founder and CTO JB Straubel had some interesting things to say at the recent Intersolar North America conference. Savvy observers of the energy transition understand that the synergy between solar power and EVs is a critical part of the transition to electromobility, and Tesla, with its alliance with SolarCity and its new energy storage business, is at the heart of this relationship.
Straubel notes that, although the world’s fleet of EVs is still comparatively tiny, it represents a pretty significant amount of energy storage – the 60,000 or so Tesla vehicles on the roads are carrying around some 5 gigawatt-hours of storage.
Tesla’s fundamental goal is to make transportation sustainable. “We don’t want to just make cars electric, we need to link cars all the way back to where the energy comes from,” says Straubel. “It has to be renewable energy to really make the difference that we want to [make].”
Because most renewable energy is intermittent, storage is the missing link that’s needed to make the future energy system work, and disrupt the petroleum-powered world.
Straubel explains that, once the price of storage drops past a certain point, it will no longer make economic sense to use fossil fuels, apart from any environmental considerations (a point also made in a recent book by Tony Seba). And that point is within sight.
“I think we’re at the beginning of a new cost decline curve. There are a lot of similarities to what happened with photovoltaics. Almost no one would have predicted that photovoltaic prices would have dropped as fast as they have, and storage is right at the cliff, heading down that price curve.”
“You suddenly get to have energy that’s 100% firm and buffered, from photovoltaics, that’s cheaper than fossil energy. And we’re within grasping distance of that goal. Once we get to that, there’s no going back. That’s the amazing tipping point that’s going to happen – I’m quite certain – within the next 10 years.”