Philipp Schröder, the head of Tesla’s operations in Germany and Austria, has been tasked with leading Sonnenbatterie’s global growth when he returns to the company in October.
Schröder, the 31-year-old who was director of sales and business development at Sonnenbatterie until January 2014, will return to oversee a major product launch scheduled for the fourth quarter this year.
It is not known whether the launch event is related to Sonnenbatterie’s U.S. pricing, which was due to be announced in the second half of this year.
Once back at Sonnenbatterie, Schröder will be in charge of expanding the German energy storage firm’s presence in the U.S. and taking the brand into new markets like Australia and the U.K.
It is understood that Sonnenbatterie, which in April announced a tie-up with Sungevity, the largest privatesolarinstaller in the U.S., is setting its sights on becoming the number-one player in the American and Australian residential energy storage markets.
This will involve transforming Sonnenbatterie from its current startup status into a premium consumer brand for energy storage, sources close to the company have disclosed.
Schröder, whose new role will be head of operations and marketing, achieved a similar feat in the German automotive market during his tenure at Tesla.
Under his watch, new Tesla Model S registrations overtook those of German-made Porsche Panamera and BMW 7 Series cars, which is impressive given that Germany lacks electric-vehicle incentives of the sort available in California or Norway.
Even so, Tesla has fallen short of its sales targets in Germany, according to recent press reports.
The company sold 828 Model S vehicles in the first six months of 2015 -- a 75 percent increase over the same period in 2014, but still a far cry from Tesla’s stated aim of shifting 1,000 vehicles a month.
Lifting Tesla’s German sales figures will now be a task for Jochen Rudat, who is currently the automaker’s Swiss country director.
Meanwhile, Schröder, who is said to be leaving Tesla on good terms after CEO Elon Musk failed to convince him to stay, looks set to mount a robust defense against Tesla’s Powerwall battery system, which goes on sale across Germany, Austria and Switzerland this fall.
Sonnenbatterie claims to be Germany’s leading lithium-battery storage system provider, with 6,000 units sold.
Unlike Tesla’s offering, which is essentially a battery and little else, Sonnenbatterie’s products include energy management, weather forecasting and self-learning software. Some liken the system to a combination of the Powerwall and the Nest intelligent thermostat.
It is possible Sonnenbatterie will use this extra functionality to justify a higher cost for the product.
In Europe, the Powerwall will cost €3,035 ($3,385) for a 7-kilowatt-hour storage unit, not including value-added tax. In the U.S., the same unit costs $3,000.
Sonnenbatterie has been widely reported as offering a 4-kilowatt-hour storage system for $10,000; Sungevity’s vice president of communications John Ordoña told GTM the figure would be less. And that was before the Powerwall pricing was unveiled.
Elsewhere, the pricing for Sonnenbatterie’s Eco battery system has been quoted as between €0.17 ($0.19) and €0.24 ($0.27) per kilowatt-hour, depending on system size.
Assuming the numbers refer to the price per hour of storage delivered over the 10,000-charge cycle lifespan of the Eco, this would seem to imply a price range of between around $8,000 and $10,500. But again, these figures are from before Tesla’s pricing announcement.
Whatever the price, “Sonnenbatterie clearly has a competitive product and is one of the leading companies in Germany in the residential energy storage space," said Logan Goldie-Scot, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance's energy storage analysis.