Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Volkswagen sets up smart charging subsidiary

Steve Rogerson
January 22, 2019

German car maker Volkswagen has set up a smart charging and renewable energy subsidiary as part of its sustainable mobility vision. Called Elli – short for Electric Life – it is headquartered in Berlin and will develop products and services connected with energy and charging.
“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,” said Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen board member responsible for e-mobility. “The new company will play its part with energy offerings from renewable sources and smart charging. 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.”
Thorsten Nicklaß has been named as CEO of Elli and announced that the new company would also offer to customers outside the group green power from renewable sources that were 100 per cent CO2-neutral. Nicklaß was formerly CEO of the Digital Energy Solutions joint venture.
“Our mission is to take e-mobility out of its niche and to place it firmly in the mainstream,” said Nicklaß. “The name Elli stands for electric life, because 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.”
The company will gradually be building up a portfolio of intelligent power tariffs, wall boxes and charging stations as well as an IT-based energy management system.
“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,” said Nicklaß.
Up to the market launch of the Volkswagen ID, the first model based on the modular electric toolkit in 2020, the company will successively roll out a large number of products that private and commercial e-mobility customers need now and in the future, ranging from hardware to charging, additional digital services and complete advice packages.
In future, customers will not only meet Volkswagen in dealerships and in their vehicles but also in their homes, where half of all electric car owners charge their vehicles. The services available will include green power for private households with and without an electric vehicle. Details of the first tariff models will be announced by the group soon. The power offered will be Volkswagen Naturstrom generated in a CO2-free way; 100% of this power comes from renewable sources such as hydropower plants and its origin has been certified by TÜV.
Customers will be able to choose between wall-box variants for safe, rapid and convenient charging at home. The 11kW AC wall box is suitable for overnight charging, a procedure that protects the battery. Full charging will take between five and eight hours. The comfort version also operates with 11kW but offers connectivity via payment arrangements and update options.
A high-end DC charging station with 22kW can make the electric car an energy storage system and part of the smart grid of the future thanks to bidirectional charging and connection to an energy management system. It will be possible to store power generated by photovoltaic systems in the car and to use it later in the household, or to feed it to the power grid to earn revenue.
Stationary battery storage will also play a role in this in the future.
An energy management system will then decide in accordance with instructions received from the owner which type of energy is to be used when, at what price and for what purpose. As not all electric cars will be charged at the same time, the burden on the power grid will be reduced at the same time as optimising energy costs for household use and mobility.
With Elli, Volkswagen will also be involved in charging at destinations such as company car parks and dealerships. Initially, this will include the expansion of charging stations at Volkswagen’s own employee car parks from 1000 today to more than 5000 by 2020 and the equipment of all 4000 dealers and service partners in the EU with several charging possibilities, also by 2020.
In fleet business, Elli will provide support to the group brands in connection with the changeover of their customers’ fleets to e-mobility. Companies without a car fleet will also be able to access advice on the topics of energy and charging infrastructure, especially with respect to installation, operation and maintenance. Elli is in discussions concerning cooperation for the installation of charging stations at car parks of major chains.
Finally, as a mobile service provider, Elli will aim to make charging in public spaces a positive experience thanks to convenient digital payment using a charging card with tailor-made tariffs.