Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) is an MIT-trained engineer and libertarian who has been living off-grid with his family for over a decade and driving a Tesla Model S for five years.
On Sunday, he posted a YouTube video on his “DIY battery quest” to replace the 12-year-old lead-acid batteries with some new Tesla lithium batteries. As he explains, while living off-grid is expensive, the new batteries could cut his nighttime electricity costs in half, from $0.25 a kilowatt hour to $0.12 a kilowatt hour, which is close to the price of retail electricity.
But while Elon Musk makes his popular Powerwall battery for use with residential solar systems, Massie says in the Video Tesla doesn’t sell one for off-grid use (though Tesla says on its website it “can offer an off-grid solution”–if you put a $500 deposit down online, “someone will contact you to discuss further”). Also, Tesla won’t sell you Model S batteries by themselves.
So, being an engineer, Massie decided to see if he could buy a wrecked Tesla vehicle, salvage the batteries, and then retool them for use in his home.
This 23-minute video documents what he calls a “pretty dag-gone exciting” do-it-yourself adventure, in which he travels to Georgia to buy a wrecked Tesla Model S for $15,000 and successfully uses its lithium battery to replace the messy and high maintenance lead-acid batteries.
Massie was motivated by his strong libertarian streak, as he told the center-right website Rare.us Wednesday: “When you go off-the-grid, you have more choices for where to build your house. Land that wasn’t developable because of a lack of access to public utilities suddenly becomes viable by going off the grid. Plus homeowners won’t have to run wires across their neighbors’ land.”
But while Massie is not your typical partisan Republican — he won the first Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for inventiveness ever awarded — he doesn’t embrace climate science. He told Science magazine back in 2012, “Most of the public is still debating whether the earth is heating up. But I think the real question is by how much? I’m still looking for an answer I can hold onto.”
Massie added, “I honestly think that it’s an open question… I think the jury is still out on the contribution of our activities to the change in the earth’s climate.”
In fact, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change, and that the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all recent warming. And they have known that for years.
This post has been updated.