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Lithium batteries seem like a weird choice for large-scale power storage that just sits in one place. Lead is a lot cheaper, and its heaviness doesn’t matter in that application.

Take a look at ggm's comment -- the machine wasn't designed for power storage, it was designed for short bursts of frequency regulation.

When designing for grid-scale capacity, there are companies looking into flow batteries and chemistries that use cheaper (non-lithium) materials.

Tesla however built out tons of lithium manufacturing capacity for their cars, and given the design constraints of this project, their existing products were a good enough fit for the job at hand.

Indeed. And it's worth remembering that one of those design constraints for the South Australia project was Musk's "Done in 100 days or it's free" offer. While surely done for publicity, it was in fact included in the contractual agreement with the state government.

Lead batteries have pretty horrible characteristics compared to Lithium, especially around depth of discharge. They're good to start a car (lots of amps, fast), but not very good to run a computer (low amps, for a long time). Discharge it below 50%, and you'll significantly shorten their lifespan. Below 25%, better try that only once or twice. Below 10%, might as throw them out.

Lead batteries have a shorter lifespan and require more maintenance. The additional weight and volume also increases shipping costs.

Oddly enough, you can get a lithium ion car battery jump starter for less than the cost of a car battery.

Gotta look at the total cost of ownership. The lead-acid battery is fairly recyclable.


The amount of effort spent reducing Lithium Ion costs has resulted in dramatic price reductions. Technologies that looked extremely promising just 10 years ago are having a hard time keeping up.

Correct for "new" batteries; however, sometimes "used" Li-Ion batteries are "recycled" into static storage, and they can be cheaper than lead batteries.

Not sure if any insurer will cover used lithium batteries of unknown provenance in a multi-ton cube.

They are almost never from "unknown" provenance. e.g. used Tesla car batteries, you know everything about them already (tech specs, years in operation, and number of charges).

ex-automotive-service might be the worst case provenances.

Would make sense if Tesla kept a life-time score of subjected G-forces and vibration for the pack so they could bin salvaged cells.

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