In May of 2015, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla's Powerwall. The battery allows homeowners to store electricity, either from the grid or solar panels, right inside their homes. The impressive tech was expensive, starting at $3,000. Instead of investing in it, a growing community of online battery enthusiasts decided to begin building their own powerwalls, and decide for themselves what the future of energy will look like.
Motherboard went out to Southern California to visit Jehu Garcia, a DIY powerwall enthusiast, at his home outside Los Angeles. There, we watched Garcia assemble a powerwall, which are often built using recycled laptop or Tesla batteries. In addition to powerwalls, Jehu has modified a vintage Volkswagen bus to run on electric power. We took it for a ride down to EV West, a boutique car garage that specializes in modding vintage cars to run electric, just like Garcia's.
There, we met with Michael Bream and his crew of technicians transforming what it means to drive a classic car. Bream powers many of the vehicles in his shop using a Powerwall connected to 18 solar panels on the shop's roof. EV West acquires batteries for its cars in unusual way. When a Tesla Model S crashes, its parts are often sold at auction. Bream's garage snaps them up and installs them in vintage cars.
Lastly, we visited the University of Michigan Energy Institute's Battery Lab, where we learned about the technology powering both DIY electric cars and powerwalls: lithium-ion batteries.
These powerful, relatively cheap, and easily accessible batteries are predicted to make fossil fuels obsolete. These are the DIY communities harnessing their power.