Elon Musk’s backup battery plans to power LA

Lithium ion batteries, used to power electric cars such as Tesla Motor’s high priced electric sports cars,  as well as a host of other electric devices, have been talked and written about as possible solutions for providing alternative power sources for homes and small businesses. Electric cars powered by these batteries, or battery packs to be more correct, have yet to become commonplace on the roads. Israel’s Better Place electric car network experiment, for example, ended with less than 1,000 ZE cars actually being sold. It was a disaster for electric cars. But given the lack of sex appeal for the Renault cars, we can understand why. There is no status symbol in that ugly car. We feel sorry for the ones who bought them, now bereft and without battery switch stations as promised.

Incorporating a large network of lithium battery packs to provide back-up electricity to entire communities is for many an even more far-fetched idea than millions of electric cars plugged into household electrical current sockets. Tesla’s Elon Musk, however, has even more grand ideas for using the concept of electric car battery systems to provide power to large population centers, such as those as large as Los Angeles. LA is a city well known for electric power shortages, often resulting in electric power “brown outs” during high peak seasonal use.  It’s also a city where you need a car to get around.

tesla back up batteryFor a city the size of Los Angeles, providing enough back-up electrical power systems from lithium storage batteries may seem like an idea out of a science fiction story. Elon Musk, whose technological and scientific group of projects includes those for inter-planetary space travel, is now putting a lot of time and money into incorporating his electric car battery concepts into a much larger scale by literally grouping together hundreds of electric battery packs. They will provide as much as 80 mega-watts of emergency electricity power for up to 2,500 households for a day or 1,000 electric cars.

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To understand how this idea will actually work, one has to understand how literally thousands of small lithium ion batteries are grouped together to form one battery pack powerful enough to run one electric sports car or sedan.

His company’s success in doing this has enabled Tesla cars to have cruising ranges of up to 300 KM or over 230 miles on a single charge. Musk’s new idea is to build large numbers of  commercial “mega batteries” in a new Gigafactory he is building in Nevada.

The first Tesla battery power pack system will be installed in a California Edison power substation, located about 40 miles outside of Los Angeles. If this battery pilot project works satisfactorily, other such projects will be undertaken as well. Musk has a solution for providing power to charge these mega batteries, involving plans to construct solar energy power plants to provide non-polluting renewable energy that can be incorporated into municipal power grids.

Futuristic? Judging from what Musk and Tesla has been able to do so far (his Tesla Model S electric sports sedan sold better in the USA last year than all other high priced luxury cars) anything is possible.

Read more on Tesla, Betterplace, and other electric energy storage ideas:
Will Tesla high priced electric sport cars be selling soon in Israel?
Interview with a Betterplace electric car owner; not stranded yet
Energy batteries bottle energy in new breakthrough

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