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Tesla’s batteries may be more successful than the iPhone and Viagra

Home battery systems weren’t really a thing a couple of weeks ago, but Tesla made it a thing when it announced its new Powerpack and Powerwall batteries. Since then, the company has received nearly a billion dollars worth of reservations, and if even a fraction of those reservations actually end up being sales, Tesla may be responsible for the most successful launch of a new product category in history, beating out the likes of the iPhone and Viagra. 

Tesla’s new line of big, stackable batteries for homes and businesses started with a bang. The reservations reported in the first week are valued at roughly $800 million, according to numbers crunched by Bloomberg. If Tesla converts even a fraction of those reservations into actual sales, the battery roll-out could measure up as one of the biggest ever for a new product category. The chart below compares the estimated value of Tesla battery reservations—these are not ironclad commitments to buy—with the early sales of three breakthrough products: the original iPhone, released in 2007; Viagra’s debut in 1998; and the introduction of the Tesla Model S battery-powered car in 2012. The iPhone surpassed $1 billion in sales by its third quarter on the market, while Viagra and the Model S needed a bit longer. The new line of storage batteries is designed to extend solar power into the night and save companies money on its electric bills during expensive peak hours. Any comparison of batteries to smartphones and erection pills is, of course, a stretch. Most of Tesla’s battery revenue will come from utilities, not the consumers who snapped up iPhones and Viagra. The price of the new batteries is also much higher. Tesla’s Powerwall units designed for home users cost $3,000 to $3,500 per unit, not including installation, while the commercial batteries are sold in roughly $25,000 incremental blocks.

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