Tesla is a leader in the design and commercialisation of pure electric cars. It lacks profit but has an orderbook that its competition can only dream about. Since last year Tesla has also been selling batteries based on Panasonic cells that can power homes and businesses copying several other companies that were there before it. It is now buying solar panel company SolarCity an American provider of energy services, headquartered in San Mateo, California copying several other companies that made that strategic move years ago.
SolarCity designs, finances, and installs solar power systems. The company has over 13,000 employees in a highly competitive business. It is investing in a $750 million photovoltaics gigafactory in the USA to move from being a full service provider of conventional silicon to a vertically-integrated solar manufacturer of a standard crystalline-silicon solar cell with elements of a thin-film cell, along with a layer of a semiconductor oxide. In October 2015, SolarCity announced that test panels made at a small facility in Fremont, California, had tested at just over 22% efficiency. Today's commodity silicon-based solar panels have only 16-18% efficiency. Tesla shares fell 10% in extended trading after the announcement while SolarCity jumped 23% because it was seen as a baleout by one loss maker of another weaker one. That is unfair because both are in a high growth phase.
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk says it will transform Tesla into the "world's only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products", from solar panels and home storage batteries to electric vehicles. To imply such leadership is slightly questionable.
For example, take competitor $13 billion BYD in China, with profits consistently above 12%, not losses. BYD is the only company in the world to land a billion dollar order for pure electric buses and set up worldwide manufacture of them. It is buses, not cars that continue to take the largest value of lithium-ion batteries worldwide. BYD is also the leader in sales of hybrid cars in China. It even makes electric forklifts. Tesla is talking of following it into the industrial and commercial electric vehicle sector that will constitute 60% of the nearly $500 billion EV market forecasted by IDTechEx in its new report, Industrial and Commercial Electric Vehicles 2016-2026.
Tesla has been buying in Panasonic batteries but BYD is a world leader in lithium-ion batteries making a wide variety of them based on its own cells including batteries for its electric vehicles. The large BYD photovoltaic business is introducing cells with 18% efficiency but inherently low costs from copper and sometimes tin replacing the silver paste, increased irradiation area, better welding and better short wave absorbance. "Bankable" is what BYD calls it. Will Tesla follow profitable BYD into lighting and information technology?
In fact, both Tesla and BYD should copy Hanergy for leadership in key respects because the end game in solar is flexible thin versions and not silicon. The end game in electric vehicles is Energy Independent Vehicles EIV that never plug in. Unlike Tesla and BYD, Hanergy is in both. See the IDTechEx reports on energy harvesting and on Energy Independent Vehicles EIV.
Hanergy Holding Group Ltd. is a multinational clean energy company as well as the world's leading thin-film solar power company, operating globally and committed to changing the world by clean power, with core businesses covering hydropower, wind power and thin-film solar power, where it integrates the entire thin-film value chain, covering R&D, high-end equipment manufacturing, thin-film solar module production and construction of thin-film solar power plants. For full service, Tesla will have to get into wind power and thin film solar power like Hanergy today. BYD is already into wind power. Hanergy is constructing thin-film solar R&D and manufacturing bases throughout China with a total production capacity of 3GW and 10GW capacity is being prepared abroad.
The maximum research conversion efficiency of its copper indium gallium selenide CIGS technology has reached 21%, as certified by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, and its gallium arsenide (GaAs) technology's research conversion efficiency has reached 30.8% -- the world record for the highest conversion efficiency of thin-film solar technology, as certified by the U.S.'s National Renewable Energy Laboratory NREL. The GaAs technology came from acquiring Alta Devices in the USA in 2014. A Nanowinn Technologies EIV bus on sale in China uses CIGS and some solar racers, also EIVs, use GaAs. Here is the future.
Thin-film solar technology enables cutting-edge features such as flexibility, light weight, superior low light performance, and diversified color and shapes. These unique qualities make it adaptable to a wide range of applications, including Building Integrated Photovoltaics BIPV, residential power, agricultural applications, automobile power, electronics, consumer and specialty products, as well as commercial unmanned aerial vehicles.
In mid 2016, Hanergy announced four planned car EIVs featuring light weight and maximization of the area covered by thin-film solar cells. Users will select and manage different travelling and weather modes in a real-time, mobile, networked and smart way through Apps on their mobiles. Moreover, the vehicles are equipped with ultrasonic cleaning technology for maintenance of the integrated solar cells and the company foresees such structural electronics appearing in many other types of vehicles. Tesla will surely follow. Its recent deal with Foton Motor to get Hanergy tin film PV into bus bodywork shows the way. For more see the IDTechEx reports, Structural Electronics 2016-2026 and High Power Energy Harvesting: 10W-100kW 2016-2026.
The four full solar power vehicles are integrated with flexible GaAs thin-film solar cells covering 3.5 to 7.5 square meters respectively. With five to six hours of sunlight, the thin-film solar cells on the vehicle are able to generate eight to ten kilowatt-hours of power a day, allowing it to travel about 80 km, equivalent to over 20,000 km annually, which satisfies the need of driving in a city under normal circumstances. With this disruptive innovation, the full solar power vehicles no longer need to rely on charging posts like traditional electric vehicles. In weak sunlight or long-distance travel, the lithium batteries equipped in the vehicles can also get power from charging stations, giving 350 km per charge.
In February 2014, Hanergy was selected by the MIT Technology Review as one of the 50 smartest companies in the world. It was the only Chinese energy company honored with the award. Hanergy Holding and the quoted Hanergy Thin Film Power Group HTFPG are separate legal entities but both have subsequently had financial issues. Nonetheless, it will be surprising if the Chinese Government lets such a key to the future go under. HTFPG says it has co-operated with Tesla, FIA Formula E and Aston Martin to line up automotive opportunities. It has absorbed CIGS competition: Solibro (Germany), MiaSolé (USA) and Global Solar Energy (USA).
Meanwhile, Elon Musk is under serious pressure to make Tesla profitable but the outlay needed to fund the manufacture of the plug-in electric cars is far greater than sales income. Nevertheless, it has become the Apple of the automotive sector and it is capable of turning cult following into huge financial success. Its battery Gigafactory is about to make batteries for cars and buildings just when a shortage of best quality large lithium-ion batteries is looming. See the IDTechEx reports, Lithium-ion Batteries 2016-2026 AND Lithium-ion Batteries for Buses 2016-2026.