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Tesla will sell solar panels and Powerwalls at Home Depot

Just how much is the average consumer interested in solar power? Tesla is about to find out, as it is bringing photovoltaic panels and Powerwall batteries to US retail giant Home Depot, Bloomberg reports. Elon Musk’s company will install Tesla-branded selling spaces at 800 locations, with its own employees on hand to explain the benefits. Later on, sources say it may also bring the much-anticipated solar roof, which generates electricity but looks and costs like a regular (high-end) roof.

Home Depot previously worked with Solar City, which Tesla absorbed into its own brand in mid-2016. However, none of the products were on display back then — now, its solar panels and Powerwalls will be shown via high-visibility, 12 feet high by seven feet wide displays. Some locations will also visually exhibit how the tech works.

Ikea attracted mainstream interest to solar power in Europe, thanks to its name and broad distribution network. However, it never brought the service to the North America, and other solar companies have failed to generate the same buzz. Tesla is fully capable of doing that in the US, though, with its widely-known brand and complete solar panel/battery backup solution. Having a spot at Home Depot is bound to draw a lot more eyes to its products, while also bringing Tesla fans to Home Depot.

Solar panel installations cost between $10,000 to 30,000, but costs are expected to rise up to 5 percent, thanks to the Trump administration’s new import tariffs. However, Tesla plans to manufacture its own panels for US residential installations using imported cells, which are exempt. (The 30 percent levy is only slapped on complete panels.) Until it increases manufacturing capacity, Tesla will pay more for imported panels, but it has some time — the tariff only kicks in after 2.5 gigawatts worth have been imported.

Source: Bloomberg

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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