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商业 - 科技

廉价电池和智能软件将掀起下一波科技革命

Katie Fehrenbacher 2015年05月20日

在特斯拉汽车公司和众多智能电网创业公司的驱动下,锂离子电池领域正在悄然发生一场革命,基于新型化学物质的电池逐渐进入市场。等到电池像电脑芯片一样廉价安全时,“能源互联网”或将变成现实。

    2015年4月30日,在加州霍桑市特斯拉汽车公司总部举办的一次活动上,与会者在该公司新推出的Powerwall家用电池前留影。Powerwall是特斯拉为家庭、企业和电力公司推出的一款电池组,特斯拉对其寄予了高度期望,希望它能扩展到电动汽车以外的领域。

    数十年来,随着廉价商品化硬件的普及,电脑、互联网和移动领域的优秀创业公司层出不穷。有些已经开始从根本上改变科技与社会。同样的事情也正在锂离子电池领域发生,虽然这种变革仍然处于早期阶段。

    过去,常用于笔记本电脑和手机上的电池大多是由亚洲工厂生产的,现在,类似的电池产品容量开始比过去要高得多,同时价格也变得足够便宜,足以对能源和汽车行业产生重大影响。

    特斯拉的“电池雄心”

    特斯拉汽车公司正以这种“廉价电池理论”作为商业模式的潜在赢利点,目前其超级电池工厂正在内华达州的里诺市紧张施工。它大概也是引领这股“电池即平台”潮流的知名度最高的公司。但除此之外,还有很多创业公司、大型能源公司、互联网公司、太阳能和清洁能源企业、汽车制造商和电池行业的龙头企业也都在推动这股潮流。

    在特斯拉的业务版图中,研发一款安全、高效、低成本,同时能够用于几乎任何领域的电池,与制造令消费者目眩神迷的电动汽车的重要性可相提并论。特斯拉的电池目前已经开发出多种用途,比如该公司最近推出的家用电池Powerwall,它可以储存家用太阳能电池板收集的电能。另一款商用电池产品Powerpack,则可以在夏季午后用电高峰时为企业提供储备电力,从而避免使用既昂贵又不环保的峰值电厂(即只在用电高峰时启用的发电厂)。

    Decades of sexy computing, web and mobile startups have emerged out of Silicon Valley built on the backs of low-cost, commoditized hardware. Some of these startups have gone on to fundamentally change technology and society. A similar thing is starting to happen—though at an early stage—around batteries.

    While these batteries, mostly manufactured in bulk in Asian countries, have long been widely used in laptops and cell phones, similar batteries are now beginning to be made at a much higher volume and are becoming cheap enough to start to have an influential effect on both the power and auto industries.

    Tesla’s battery ambitions

    Tesla (with its planned huge battery factory under construction outside of Reno, Nevada) is using this low-cost battery thesis as an underlying tenant for its business model, and is probably the most well-known company leading this ‘battery-as-a-platform’ wave. However, there are many other startups, big power companies, Internet companies, solar and clean energy firms, auto makers and battery giants pushing this trend, too.

    Tesla’s business is as much about creating a battery pack that can be used as efficiently, safely and as low cost as possible for whatever application, as it is about wowing customers with a sexy electric car. Its batteries are being used in many more applications such as the recent announcement of the Powerwall, which stores energy from a rooftop solar panel in a home, and the Powerpack, which can provide a utility with a burst of energy to help it avoid using an expensive and dirty peaker plant (a power plant only used during peak grid times) on a hot Summer afternoon.

    2015年2月18日,内华达州里诺市郊外正在施工的特斯拉超级电池工厂

    继发布这两款电池产品之后,特斯拉CEO埃隆•穆斯克又在最近的收益电话会议上表示,该公司目前使用的锂离子电池“比较一般”(其合作伙伴为日本松下公司),特斯拉的价值其实取决于电池模块组的机械、电子和软件工程。

    Following Tesla’s launch of its grid batteries two weeks ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on the company’s earnings call last week that the lithium-ion battery cells that the company uses (its partner is Panasonic) are “relatively generic.” Tesla’s value instead lies in the mechanical, electrical and software engineering of the battery modules and pack, said Musk.

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