Tesla’s Powerwall on a boat?

17 Sep

Tesla
This summer Tesla unveiled its Powerwall, a battery large enough to power an average home with a solar system, and give this home independence from the grid. Elon Musk’s announcement was met with giddy excitement, and the batteries are already sold out for the foreseeable future.

I wonder how long before a Powerwall finds its way onto a boat? Tick, tick, tick.

Crunching the numbers, it may not make economic sense yet, but the price may come down in a few years. The Powerwall, the 7 kWh version, sells for $3000. The slightly larger 10 kWh Powerpack sells for $3500. If we compare these to a size 8D battery (generally the largest size, and common on boats), here’s how it stacks up.

8D battery:
trojan

An 8D holds about 3 kWh (kilowatt hours). You can buy an 8D battery for as little as $230, but for our purposes we’ll compare a top quality AGM 8D battery, say from Lifeline or Trojan, which sells for $650-$700. So in pure kilowatt hour terms, the Tesla battery costs about 40% more. You’d need three 8D batteries (a common arrangement, and what I’ve got on my boat) at about $2100 to supply to same number of kilowatt hours as the Tesla Powerpack at $3500.

But wait! With the lead-acid batteries we normally follow the 50% rule, meaning we only use 50% of the battery’s capacity. Tesla doesn’t expressly say this, but since the Powerwall/Powerpack is a lithium-ion battery I’m guessing it can cycle through it’s entire capacity without damage. This alone might make up for the difference in price. Also, lithium-ion batteries can take a charge must faster than lead-acid batteries. The Tesla also comes with a 10-year warranty, and I don’t know of too many marine batteries that see ten years.

The Tesla is WAY cheaper than other quality lithium-ion batteries of similar capacities.

The voltage on the Tesla batteries is stated as 350-450 Volts DC (huh?) so there would have to be some kind of DC to DC step-down converter. I can’t find much information on these, and they don’t seem to be common, but we can assume this will get expensive…and be one more device aboard that can fail.

Another advantage of the Tesla is that it’s lighter at 220 pounds. A single 8D weighs about 160 pounds, so the Tesla would be about half the weight for the same capacity. The Tesla is a big, flat battery at 51″H x 34″W x 7″ deep, so it might lend itself well to fitting under a bunk or mounting in the back of a locker. It’s meant to mount on a wall (duh) and it’s all sexy-looking, so maybe it could just mount in plain sight on a bulkhead.

It’s a deep cycle battery, so I have no idea how it would do for starting loads. Might have to have a starting battery too, which would provide some redundancy.

At the moment I’m going to say it’s a bit premature, especially with regard to stepping down the voltage, but the Tesla batteries are a VERY interesting prospect for powering a boat.

This article was syndicated from The Adventures of the Vessel Condesa

Comments

  1. Clark Beek

    Hi John, You’ve got more info than I’ve ever been able to get, but I wrote this blog post when the Powerwall first hit the market, or was about to hit the market.

  2. John J

    Many places I researched claim these systems are fire hazards if they become wet. On a boat, what are the odds of that happening ?

  3. RVDM

    I am interested in fitting one of these in the laz of a 28m superyacht instead of an emergency gennie. Thoughts?

  4. Clark

    Sorry, I’ve been tardy in looking into it. Tesla isn’t exactly open and forthcoming with technical information about half-baked ideas about putting their home products on boats.

  5. Kris w Fisher

    I second that, and with Clark being a marine electrician it would be nice to see a more thorough look at the compatibility of these in marine environment. With the POWERWALL 2’s improved capacity and the numbers as such, I hope not to be the first to jam one on my bulkhead (who needs TV anyways).

Comments are closed.

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