The Tesla Powerwall and associated hype has given a huge boost to the emerging home battery storage market. But while some pundits have argued that the product is distinguished primarily by its slick marketing campaign, there is no doubt that the strategy is working: despite being “just another’ lithium-ion battery, everyone is talking about the Tesla Powerwall.
Now the competitors are starting to wake up to this, and work out just why the Powerwall has seized the public imagination. The cult of Elon Musk is part of it, but another key element has been the commoditisation of battery technology, taking home storage out of the drab world of energy management and into the realm of consumer gadgetry.
Here, technology is desirable not just for its practical value, but because it is shiny and new and covetable.
In other words, aesthetics matter.
In recent days, two separate battery producers have made announcements about sleek new “˜redesigned’ storage products, each one focusing not on performance or price, but on form factor.
Last week, Enphase unveiled the new design for its forthcoming lithium-ion AC Battery, which sports a “slimmed-down, new look”.
“After lengthy feedback sessions with customers and prospects, the all-silver Enphase AC Battery is ready for its debut,” whispered Enphase.
The company cites the new unit’s primary virtue as “visual appeal”, saying it is “clean, modern, unpretentious, and looks great in any garage or covered area of any home.”
The company added that its smaller size makes it easier to install, pack and ship. It will be available in winter 2016.
A few days earlier, Sunverge also announced a sleek new battery product, unveiling the next generation of its Solar Integration System (SIS) – a fully integrated storage system comprising batteries, power electronics and system-management software.
Again, the release stressed the product’s looks, highlighting the “streamlined” design and smaller size.
As the first generation SIS looked not unlike a high-school gym locker, this is quite a transformation.
Sunverge added that the new SIS is “lighter, more modular and easier to install than its predecessor, and is suitable both for installation into existing home solar systems and for packaging with new solar panels.”
The new SIS is due for release later this year.
Clearly, dull grey cabinets and anonymous housings are not going to cut it any more, next to the shimmering carapace of a Tesla Powerwall. Expect more slimmed-down, new-look battery products to emerge in coming months.