Tesla Motors is building the world's biggest battery factory just outside of Reno, Nevada. The company is calling it the “gigafactory,” and when it’s up and running in 2016 it’s expected to make Tesla’s electric cars much more affordable.
“In a single factory we're doubling the worldwide capacity to manufacture lithium-ion batteries,” says J.B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer.
That's significant enough. But the company also plans to develop batteries for use with solar-power generation – giving Tesla a shot at challenging public utilities as an energy source, Straubel says.
“At the price points that we're expecting to achieve with the gigafactory ... we see a market that is well in excess of the production capability of the factory,” says Straubel.
The market for batteries is an offshoot of the booming business for solar panels, particularly in states such as California, where solar is becoming commonplace.
“We sign up approximately one new customer every minute of the workday," says Will Craven, director of public affairs at California-based SolarCity.
Much of the excess energy harnessed by solar panels is returned to the power grid, Cravens says. This means homeowners and businesses may earn a credit from their power companies, but have no say over when and how that energy is used.
The partnership with SolarCity will use rooftop solar panels fitted with Tesla’s battery packs to allow customers to keep that energy in-house. That means they can use it however, and whenever, they want. The concept puts Tesla in direct competition with utility companies.
“Stationary storage, or backup storage, is really being considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of renewable electricity generation,” says Ben Kallo, an analyst with the Robert W. Baird financial services firm.
Kallo points out that the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources makes them less reliable because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. But with the ability to store that energy, renewable energy sources can compete head-to-head with utility companies for customers.
“There are still many utilities out there who kind of have their head stuck in the sand and just hope that this goes away. What we're seeing is really building momentum,” Kallo says.
Forward-minded utilities might look at Tesla’s business model as an opportunity, he says. Energy-storage technology could be used to build capacity in their existing grids, and also build new infrastructure for battery-powered cars and homes.
In a series of early-morning raids, Australian counterterrorism police arrested five men in the Melbourne area Saturday, over their possible involvement in a plot to attack a memorial ceremony.
Both the United Nations and the Taliban have condemned the attack, which targeted civilians who were in a long line at a bank.
Thousands of police formed a perimeter around the heart of South Korea's capital Saturday, in an effort to dampen a third day of protests over the government handling of a ferry disaster one year ago.
The former Maryland governor also was flatly dismissive of Republican economic theories in an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, saying they're 'patently bull----.'
Among U.S. cities, New Orleans has the third-highest rate of young people who are neither in school nor working. Craig Adams Jr. is trying not to be one of them.
Like its Central American neighbors, Panama is dealing with a rise in gangs. One hotel developer has taken on several of the gangs in his neighborhood, offering them rehabilitation, jobs and hope.
Like its Central American neighbors, Panama is dealing with a rise in gangs, but a hotel developer has taken on several of the gangs in his neighborhood, offering them rehabilitation, jobs and hope.
The IMF and World Bank meet this weekend. Likely on the agenda: the Iran deal, ISIS and Russia. NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks with Foreign Policy's David Rothkopf about the state of the global economy.
Italian police detained 15 Muslim migrants this week accused of throwing 12 Christians off a smuggling vessel in the Mediterranean because of their faith.
Twenty years after the Oklahoma City bombing, nearly one in four survivors has markers for PTSD. Counselors are still opening up new cases for first responders as a result of the bombing.
Mobs with machetes attacked immigrants in Durban, South Africa, Thursday, hoping to drive out foreigners looking for work. NPR's Linda Wertheimer speaks with the BBC's Milton Nkosi about the attacks.
Greece says Germany owes it billions of dollars for its World War II occupation by the Nazis. The German government says it has already paid, but some Germans feel more should be done.
No party is expected to win a majority in the upcoming U.K. elections. That means the Scottish National Party, after losing a vote on independence last year, could determine the country's next leader.
In 1977, classical music virtually died in Pakistan when the government banned live concerts. Seven musicians are working to bring the art back, and a film premiering Saturday documents their quest.
Hillary Clinton's campaign went to great lengths to keep her events in Iowa this week intimate. That's easier said than done when the candidate is one of the world's most famous politicians.
Taubman's philanthropy and business success — including weaving the enclosed shopping mall into American culture — was clouded by a criminal conviction late in his career. He was 91.
A suicide bomb attack on a bank branch in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad has killed at least 30 people and wounded more than 80, officials said.
Golf is a sport that's been enjoyed by both Democrats and Republicans through the decades, but bipartisan golf outings may be disappearing like a shanked tee shot into a water hazard.
Joining Kai to talk about the week's business and economic news are Fortune Magazine's Leigh Gallagher and John Carney from the Wall Street Journal. The big topics this week: inflation at the retail level and consumer sentiment, Greece's debt problems and the eurozone, and Etsy's and Party City's stock market debuts.