Mercedes And Vivint Solar To Take On Tesla In The US


Having announced their rollout in the United Kingdom last month, Mercedes-Benz Energy has now teamed with Vivint Solar to put them in Californian homes.

Mercedez Benz joins Sonnen and Tesla in the US market as a major battery supplier, thanks to a partnership with No. 2 solar installer Vivint Solar.

Last year, Mercedes started a program in Germany that works nearly exactly the same way.

Vivint Solar has been around since 2011, but never expanded beyond solar panels and, through a sister company, smart home installations. But before Tesla's acquisition of SolarCity in November, battery and solar installations were separate processes. "For most Americans, that's a complicated thing to put together", Vivint CEO David Bywater said.

A Mercedes-Benz energy storage battery, left, about the size of a mini-fridge, is shown with a vehicle.

The design of the energy storage systems calls for modular 2.5-kWh batteries that can be combined into a system as large as 20 kWh. The fully installed cost will range from just under $5,000 to $13,000 for a 20 kWh system.

Tesla's Powerwall 2, which stores 14 kWh of energy, can cost as much as $11,450 including installation. Vivint will start selling the Mercedes home batteries to new customers only in California in the second quarter of this year. For instance, in areas with time-of-use electricity rates, customers can store excess solar energy produced by the system during the day in the batteries and then consume it during periods of peak energy usage in the evening and at night when electricity rates are typically higher. 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 USA, which von Bormann calls a "key market".

Mercedes is "not a startup".

"[Mercedes is] not a startup, it's not a stock-value driven company with some velocity behind it that can go one way or another", von Bormann said. "You know that no matter what happens the company will still be there and there will be the tech to support it and service it", Bormann said. Companies like Sonnen were installing residential batteries outside the USA before that, but Tesla's move prompted the company to sell batteries stateside.

Both Tesla and Mercedes see at-home batteries as an extension of their electric-car plans. As more consumers and businesses seek to make use of this form of clean power, the demand for energy storage solutions is on the rise as well.

"As Mercedes-Benz electrifies its vehicle fleet, solar plus storage is essential to enable those vehicles to be powered by clean energy", said Boris von Bormann, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, LLC. Mercedes says it is also interested in exploring markets like China and Australia.