In 2019, the Solar Energy Industries Association declared the 2020s would be the ‘Solar+ Decade”. So far, their designation has come true, and then some: 2020 was the best year ever for energy storage deployment in the US, including at the residential level. But it’s not just energy storage that is being paired with solar; according to our recently released Installer Survey, in 2020, 1 in 12 solar installations also included an electric vehicle (EV) charger, while nearly as many people purchased an EV as purchased a solar panel system nationwide.
But EVs are good for more than just transportation – they are powered by high-capacity batteries, which theoretically could be leveraged to play a similar role as a standard solar-battery, just with more storage capacity. One company that is pioneering this technology–typically called vehicle-to-grid or vehicle-to-home–is Wallbox, a 6-year-old, internationally located smart EV charging company. We had a chance to chat with Wallbox to learn about their products, the promise of vehicle-to-grid technology, and when you can expect to install that in your home. Here’s what we learned:
The promise of vehicle-to-home (or grid) technology
In the realm of solar-adjacent technologies, few are as exciting as the ability to leverage the energy stored in your electric vehicle to power your home. For one, EV batteries are often much larger than the “stationary” storage products you’d install in your home (i.e., solar batteries). Compare the Tesla Model S with the Tesla Powerwall 2 for instance: a Powerwall 2 stores 15 kilowatt-hours (kWh), 13.5 kWh of which are usable; meanwhile, the battery in the Tesla Model S has a capacity of 100 kWh, 7X the capacity of the stationary Powerwall.
In other words, if you could leverage the battery in your EV to power your home in the event of an outage, you could keep your home running seven times longer than you could if you installed a single battery instead. See why we think this tech is so exciting?
And while it might sound far-fetched to power your home with your car (if you have solar, shouldn’t you be powering your car with your home?), but there are recent examples of exactly this happening. During the grid outages in Texas in February 2021, there were a number of reports of homeowners using the generator in their new F150s to backfeed power into their home to keep the lights on! Wallbox’s products promise to provide that exact option but for EV owners.
The Wallbox bi-directional charger: the Quasar
Wallbox is making this idea a reality by introducing the first bidirectional charger for home use: the Quasar. A bidirectional charger allows electric vehicle owners to both put electricity into their cars as well as to take electricity out of their cars for use in their home. The Quasar provides a similar voltage, amperage and power as other level 2 EV chargers, which means it possesses more than enough juice to charge an EV overnight.
In addition to being able to charge your car, it can also discharge from your car back to your home, with a power output on par with most batteries and storage inverters on the residential market today. This allows you to extract electricity from your car’s battery to power some (or all) of your home for extended periods of time, before recharging your car from the grid or from solar if you have panels installed on your property.
According to Wallbox, the award-winning Quasar is currently being rolled out in limited scale installations in Europe and is not yet available in North America, though Wallbox expects to introduce a version of Quasar to North America in 2022. While we wait for this technology to arrive stateside, there’s an open question that needs to be answered about whether using your car battery as a backup device for your home will void your car warranty: since you’re cycling your battery in a non-standard way (at least from a car manufacturer’s perspective), there’s a possibility that using your EV’s battery to backup your home will void your warranty. Before investing in (and using!) this technology, be sure to check your warranty documentation and with the manufacturer of your EV about any requirements regarding vehicle-to-home power backup.
Wallbox’s existing product line in North America: Pulsar Plus
Although the Quasar is not yet available in the US, Wallbox is already in the EV charger market here with their other primary product for residential home & EV use: the Pulsar Plus. Developed based on Wallbox’s best-selling charger in Europe, the new Pulsar Plus is designed specifically for the North American market. Wallbox offers two versions of the Pulsar Plus: the currently available 40 Amp version, and a soon to be released 48 Amp version, expected to be released this summer.
The Pulsar Plus 40A offers 9.6 kilowatts of output, and can be installed either with a hardwire connection or a NEMA 14-50 cable, which is included with the charger. The forthcoming Puslar Plus 48A will have a charging capacity of 11.5 kW, and will only be available via a hardwired installation. (Editor’s note: if you already have a NEMA 14-50 compatible outlet in your garage, this is a big benefit! Otherwise, you’ll be paying for electrical work regardless of whether your system is hardwired or connects through a NEMA 14-50 cable.)
Both versions of Pulsar Plus are “smart” chargers, meaning you can schedule charging sessions, remotely lock and unlock the charge for use (if, say, your in-laws happened by while you were away and needed a top off), adjust overall power settings, and access real-time charging history and data through both their myWallbox mobile app or a desktop portal. The Pulsar Plus has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, but relies on its own “onboard intelligence” to manage the smart functions, meaning that you don’t need to be actively connected to the internett to be able to manage most of the charger’s functions.
Wallbox chargers–including the Pulsar Plus–can share power between connected chargers: up to 25 Pulsar Plus chargers can be connected to the same electrical circuit and networked to dynamically balance power between connected EVs. As the connected vehicles near or reach a full charge, or as additional vehicles are connected, the Wallbox system will dynamically shift power between the chargers to ensure each vehicle is charging at its optimum level with the available power.
Begin your own energy transition with EnergySage
If you are considering–or already own–an electric vehicle, the best way to get the most out of your car is to run it on solar energy produced at your home, which you can do easily on EnergySage. The best part? Many solar installations are already “EV ready”, meaning it’s easy to integrate an EV charger into your solar energy system at some point in the future. Depending upon your timeline for purchasing an EV, be sure to ask your installer to make your solar panel system “EV ready” or ask your installer which EV chargers they offer to integrate them today.