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MERCEDES-BENZ Australia is linking with an as yet unnamed solar power and energy company to sell Mercedes-branded solar panels and pack-up battery packs to customers for use in homes and offices.

The new business is designed to stake out a strong position for Mercedes Benz in the electric vehicle space in this country. It is also deliberately designed to come up against moves by US electric vehicle-maker Tesla, which is capturing the imagination of the Australian public by rolling out the Tesla Powerwall battery back-up system.

The German car-maker has lined up a deal with an independent specialist which will give it access to a national distribution and sales network and will market Mercedes-Benz Energy storage batteries.

As a precursor to the deal, Mercedes will convert its Australian headquarters to run on solar-powered storage batteries.

The arrival of the batteries – in competition to Tesla Powerwall – coincides with the launch of four plug-in hybrid Mercedes vehicles, two C350e models (sedan and wagon), a GLE 500e SUV and an S Class S500e sedan.

Although the independent company will be selling the batteries and combining them with photovoltaic roof panels, Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific indicated its franchised dealers will have a role to play in marketing the product.

However, the company would not comment on the specifics of the dealers’ roles until the storage batteries are officially launched in July.

Tesla charging station

Tesla charging station

Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications David McCarthy told GoAutoNews Premium that the Mulgrave head office will be one of the first in the world with the system.

“We have invested a lot of time and a lot of money on this project,” he said.

“We had a chance to recharge the storage batteries from the grid but chose not to. Instead, we want to see how it works as a complete system that can power the office and charge our cars.

“It will show customers of our cars and of our storage system that you can plug in one of our cars and drive for 50km just on sustainable energy.

“At the same time, there will be power available from the same sustainable source for the house.

“That’s our aim – a complete solution.”

Mr McCarthy said the home storage batteries will be showcased at a technology day in July that will be hosted by experts from Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG in Germany.

The lithium-ion batteries, made by Daimler subsidiary Deutsche Accumotive, are made for domestic and commercial applications. They will also be used in the Mercedes-Benz hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle range.

In domestic applications, the 2.5kWh batteries can be combined in modules to store up to 20kWh. Most home photovoltaic panels are rated from 2.5kW to 5kW. Adding more modules will make the system suitable for commercial use.

Mercedes-Benz Energy’s entry into Australia follows Tesla’s Powerwall that has been available in Australia since February this year. It has power outputs from 7kWh to 10kWh and is similarly available through independent suppliers and fitters.

The price for the 7kWh version is about $14,000 as a package, including 4kW output solar panels for the roof and the inverter. It can be purchased without the solar panels, making it ideal for retrofit applications.
Other home storage batteries are being developed for sale include those by Volkswagen – under the Phaeton badge – and Nissan with its xStorage system. Neither are yet available for sale.

By Neil Dowling and John Mellor

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