Tesla CEO Elon Musk often refers to a company simply as “a group of people getting together to make a product”, which is exactly what the automaker is doing with its ‘Tesla Energy’ division.
The Palo Alto-based company has been assembling an impressive team around its stationary energy storage products, and even transferred several key players from its core business to lead the initiative, which goes a long way to show how Tesla sees its energy division as an integral part of its business going forward.
A fun fact for you: most people think the company launched its ‘Tesla Energy’ division last year, but it actually first launched the initiative back in 2007. At the time, Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard was CEO and announced the new division in a blog post that has since been removed from Tesla’s website, but Electrek uncovered it last year.
The new division was called the ‘Tesla Energy Group’ and its goal was to design and sell Energy Storage Systems (ESSes) to other companies. Based on the blog post, it would have been a combination of both the current Tesla Energy which develop and sells battery packs for residential, commercial and utility-scale projects, and Tesla’s powertrain division, which over the past few years developed electric powertrains to a few other automakers like Toyota and Daimler.
Eberhard put board member Bernard Tse in charge of the division at the time, but not long after launching the new group, Eberhard was replaced as CEO following difficulties to bring Tesla’s first vehicle to market. Following his demotion, Eberhard left and the company killed the project to focus their limited resources on the Roadster.
Tse left not long after Eberhard and started his own company called Atieva with several Tesla alumni.
It took a while for Tesla to get back on track, but after two more CEOs, Elon Musk eventually took the position and the company successfully launched both the Roadster and the Model S. It was only after the launch of the Model S in 2012 that Tesla got back more seriously into the stationary energy storage business and the company started several pilot programs with SolarCity, while allocating some engineering power to the effort.
In 2014, Tesla put its Director of Powertrain Business Development Mateo Jaramillo in charge of the energy storage effort and not long after officially launching the product line (Powerwall and Powerpack) in May 2015, Jaramillo was promoted to Vice President of the division.
Jaramillo, himself with Tesla since 2009, was just one of many key players from the company’s core business to now work in the energy division. Drew Baglino has been with Tesla since 2006, making him one of the company’s longest standing engineer. Until 2014, he was Director of Powertrain Systems Architecture, Modeling, and Controls. He then went on to lead the Tesla Energy engineering team and earlier this month, like Jaramillo, he was promoted to Vice President.
There are a few other examples like that of Tesla transferring long time senior employees from its core business, cars, to its new stationary energy storage division, which to an extent shows that Tesla sees the new opportunity has an important aspect of its business.
- Last month, Jaramillo gave an interesting presentation about his division’s effort in the energy storage industry
Also, Tesla is now allocating some of its software engineering talent to develop software for the energy division. Of course, the company is also leveraging its existing battery pack knowledge developed for cars.
Beyond promoting from within the company and leveraging its staffs, Tesla is also poaching employees from electric utilities and solar companies to staff the division. The company hired former TrinaSolar President Ben Hill to lead the group in Europe and Africa.
These industries have several interconnecting aspects, but energy storage find itself right in middle with its potential to facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources to the grid.
Last week we reported that Tesla had 15 new job openings in sales and operations for Tesla Energy in Australia. The company also has similar numbers of openings in several other critical markets like in Germany, the Netherlands and South Africa.
Tesla also has over 232 employees at the Gigafactory in Nevada where the company operates its stationary energy products assembly line.
The ramping up of the division is starting to be apparent with recent installations in Australia and the UK. Hopefully, Tesla’s management will give an update on the state of the energy effort during the earnings call today. You can join us at 5pm ET for a live blog of the call.