The auto market’s quick shift to electric vehicles is increasing the need for charging infrastructure, particularly power from carbon-free sources, so solar company SunPower says it’s working with Spain’s Wallbox to integrate EV chargers into customers’ homes and businesses, expanding a market pioneered by Tesla and recently joined by Ford and rival Sunrun.
The San Jose, California-based company, which also now offers solar customers a battery-storage system, is evolving its traditional business from just installing panels and inverters to providing a more comprehensive system to let EV owners repower their cars with energy they’re producing at home. Over time, there will also be the added ability for customers to draw power from the vehicles’ battery pack to keep electricity flowing in their home in the event of a utility outage, says SunPower CEO Peter Faricy.
“Automakers are allocating capital for all these electric vehicles, and that’s what’s going to be for sale. That requires people to build their own virtual gas station at home,” Faricy says. The added ability to draw power from vehicles via Wallbox charging units “is going to be a really big deal because these car batteries are sometimes even bigger than the batteries we’re putting that on homes.”
Ford and Sunrun are integrating that feature into their charging partnership with the new F-150 Lightning pickup, and luxury electric car startup Lucid has said its vehicles are also designed to offer “bidirectional” charging to homes and businesses. SunPower is in talks with automakers to provide the service, though Faricy declined to share details on when that feature would be available.
The Silicon Valley solar company’s move aligns with a push by the Biden Administration to curb climate-damaging carbon emissions by shifting cars and trucks away from gasoline to electricity. As a result, the market for EVs should expand from about 2% of U.S. auto purchases in 2020 to overtake sales of petroleum-powered models by 2036, according to a recent Ernst & Young estimate. The drop in solar panel costs in the past decade and greater availability of battery systems to store power generated by photovoltaic systems also makes solar-fueled charging more attractive.
Wallbox’s new Quasar charger will allow electricity to be pulled when needed from connected vehicles’ battery packs for use in the home, says Enric Asuncion, CEO and cofounder of the Barcelona-based company.
“There is a strong consumer overlap between EV drivers and solar users in the U.S.,” he said. Teaming up SunPower “will help us accelerate the adoption of EVs by making it cheaper, easier and more sustainable for like-minded consumers to charge an EV at home.”
Shares of SunPower rose 1.7% to $24.63 in Nasdaq trading on Thursday.