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Volkswagen launches green energy supply division in bid to take e-mobility ‘mainstream’

Image: Volkswagen.

Image: Volkswagen.

Automotive giant Volkswagen has announced it is to launch a power supply division in a bid to take e-mobility into the “mainstream”.

Volkswagen has established a new consumer-facing brand, Elli – short for ‘Electric Life’ – to develop a range of products and services that are connected with consumer energy demand and electric vehicle charging.

Berlin-headquarted Elli is to offer customers CO2-neutral power from renewable sources and is to build a portfolio of intelligent power tariffs, domestic EV charging solutions dubbed ‘Wallboxes’ and a smart energy management system that underpins the consumer offering.

Elli is to be headed up by Thorsten Nicklaß, the former chief executive of VW’s digital energy solutions joint venture, who said it was the company’s goal to “take e-mobility out of its niche and to place it firmly in the mainstream”.

“We will be creating a seamless, sustainable ecosystem that addresses the main applications and provides answers to all the energy questions raised by electric car users and fleet operators,” he said.

Tariff details are to be announced in the near future, however Volkswagen did confirm its supply will be certified by TÜV and derived from its Volkswagen Naturstrom product, which sources its power from hydropower facilities in Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria.

The EV charging solution will consist of Wallbox chargers of various capacities. An entry-level 11kW AC Wallbox is to be offered first, possessing connectivity that can provide new payment arrangements and updates depending on market conditions.

An additional 22kW DC charging station will also be available, one that Volkswagen says will be capable of essentially turning the electric vehicle into a household energy storage system. It will feature bidirectional charging and, utilising VW’s energy management system, will be capable of providing grid services.

Elli’s reach will however extend beyond the consumer’s home. All of VW’s 4,000 dealerships and service partners in Europe will receive charging equipment by 2020, and the company is to provide advice to corporate customers with vehicle fleets on the necessary energy and charging infrastructure, essentially providing an end-to-end solution which combines installation, operation and maintenance of EV infrastructure.

VW said Elli is currently in discussions with a series of “major chains” regarding this offering and while none were named, late last year it was announced that VW was to partner with Pod Point to deliver 2,400 EV chargers at Tesco car parks up and down the UK.

Elli customers will also be able to charge their vehicles on the go using publicly available spaces, paying to do so via a digital payment system that uses a charge card.

The launch of an energy supplier dealing exclusively in clean power represents a significant pivot for the automotive giant that has received considerable criticism for its role in the emissions scandal of 2015.

While the prospect of a major household name launching an energy supply division has been suspected for some time, many industry stakeholders considered the most likely candidates would have been a retail giant or possibly a tech company, rather than a company in the automotive sector.

Thomas Ulbrich, brand board member with responsibility for e-mobility at VW, said: “As one of the world’s largest automakers, Volkswagen is going to force the pace of the urgently needed transport and energy transition to emission-neutral e-mobility.

“The new company will play its part with energy offerings from renewable sources and smart charging solutions. This way, we are entering a strategically relevant, extremely exciting business area that offers considerable opportunities for strengthening ties with existing customers as well as accessing entirely new customer groups.”


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