With the development and growth of electric vehicles (EVs), manufacturers increasingly have been eyeing spin-off businesses. Home and utility-scale energy storage using both new and second life batteries, EV charging infrastructure and grid services including vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-home, have come into the sights of companies such as Tesla, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Nissan.
The latest manufacturer to join this growing and increasingly competitive group is Volkswagen, whose approach to EV development so far has been of lower profile than some of the others. Instead of bespoke new models of EVs, VW has opted to produce electric and hybrid versions of current popular models, such as the Up!, Golf and Passat – or as the company puts it, “the Volkswagens you love electrified”.
For its energy offerings and charging solutions for the group’s brands, VW has now announced the establishment of a new company, named Elli.
“Our mission is to take e-mobility out of its niche and to place it firmly in the mainstream,” says Thorsten Nicklaß, designated CEO of Elli, explaining that the name ‘Elli’ stands for “electric life”.
“We intend to enable a lifestyle that fully integrates the electric car in people’s everyday lives. This approach could be compared with the use of a mobile phone, which is taken for granted nowadays.”
Elli plans to gradually build up a portfolio of intelligent power tariffs, wallboxes and charging stations as well as an IT-based energy management system, according to a company statement. The aim is to provide the ecosystem to address the main applications and provides answers to all the energy questions raised by EV users and fleet operators.
Leading up to the market launch in 2020 of the Volkswagen ID – the first model based on the company’s modular electric platform (MEB) also to be used across the Audi, Seat and Skoda brands – Elli intends to successively roll out solutions for private and commercial e-mobility customers, ranging from hardware to charging, additional digital services and complete advice packages.
Elli has seven business areas encompassing home and business charging and charging on the road.
Home charging comprises the provision of green power in the form of Volkswagen Naturstrom, certified 100% from hydro sources, with the first tariff models to be announced shortly. Alongside this, a variety of wallbox variants will be offered, including low cost 11kW AC models for overnight charging and a 22kW DC charging station offering bidirectional charging and connection to an energy management system to optimise the energy use across the home and vehicle. For example, the EV could be used as a stationary storage system to store excess energy from a solar PV system for later use in the home.
Destination charging encompasses charging in company car parks and dealerships as well as advice and support for fleet owners and managers and chain outlets. As part of this focus, VW intends to expand charging stations at its own employee car parks from 1,000 today to more than 5,000 by 2020 and the equipment of all 4,000 dealers and service partners in the EU with several charging possibilities, also by 2020.
In its charging on the road business area, Elli promises to provide a charging card with tailor-made tariffs for convenient digital payment for charging in public spaces.
“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,” vows the brand Board Member responsible for E-Mobility, Thomas Ulbrich.
Electric vehicle development
While growth of EVs is uncertain, with numbers dependent on strategies and timelines as countries look to push switching away from traditional fossil fuel powered vehicles in their drive to meet the Paris Agreement, demand is expected to exceed 1m vehicles per year globally by 2025.
For its part Volkswagen is focussing its EV production in its Zwickau facility in eastern Germany, where it will produce the ID. From 2021 onwards, the company plans to produce six electric models of three group brands and by 2025 anticipates an output of 330,000 EVs per year.
Among other recent developments from Volkswagen is the unveiling of a mobile charging station, with a capacity of up to 360kWh that can quick charge up to 15 EVs. Applications envisaged include city and company parking lots and large-scale events. The station can be charged directly from the power supply or alternatively when the integrated battery is depleted, it can simply be replaced with a charged battery.