CEO Enric Asunción: Wallbox Runs On Innovation

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Wallbox is an electric vehicle charging equipment (EVSE) manufacturer based in Spain that’s bringing some of the smartest, most innovative chargers to the market. CleanTechnica connected with Wallbox’s CEO Enric Asunción to talk about the work it is doing on its current lineup of products and what the future holds for the company.

A Design-First Approach

Enric said that from the outset, the overarching mission of Wallbox was to design, manufacture, and distribute the most innovation charging solutions in the world. Building a functional charger starts with design, and that’s not just the pretty bits on the outside of a device. “Design effects everything in a company,” Enric said.

At its core, design connects the function of the device to the user at every level. As modern EVSEs increasingly evolve from simple wall outlets into intelligent, connected chargers that have the potential to enable owners to charge up with just green power, or the cheapest power, design stretches into the software space that defines the user experience as well. “We are investing a lot in improving the customer experience,” Enric said.

On the hardware side, design plays out in the internals of the charger as well as in the aesthetic and functional exterior of the unit. “We are doing it in hardware — making things much more compact and much more efficient, which allows you to make it more compact,” Enric said.

Just looking at Wallbox’s chargers, it is easy to see that they are beautiful, and where additional function is possible, the company is adding it. On its modern, connected chargers, functionality increasingly plays out in software more than hardware, as the hardware’s basic function is and will continue to be providing the physical plug that connects the source of electricity to the vehicle.

Become The Biggest By Being The Best

The goal at Wallbox was never to be the biggest, but to be the best, but the two often go hand in hand. “We want to be the best and by being the best, we are getting big,” Enric said. Being the best means looking at the current and future customer needs and building towards the intersection of the two.

Steve Jobs famously said that, “customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them,” and this is doubly true for electric vehicles. Customers don’t know that owning an electric vehicle is essentially the same as owning a smartphone – just plug it in at night, have a backup plan and know that by and large, it’s going to be your new best friend.

At Wallbox, Enric is confident that the company’s products will resonate with customers. “I don’t think the challenge is on the sales side. The challenge is with the innovation.” The battery packs in electric vehicles continue to increase, mandating faster public charging speeds, homeowners will want to integrate solar panels and tie their chargers into a smart home energy management system, and wireless charging may arrive in the future, to name a few innovations.

The prospect is exciting and engaging for Enric as he looks to the future where Wallbox will compete with global companies head to head, at much higher volumes than are being produced by the entire EV charging hardware industry today. In that future, he has already blocked out a wedge in the market for Wallbox and is setting the company on a trajectory to get there.

“Some part of the market will be focused on smart products and the highest quality,” and that’s where the company wants to be. it will be “providing the best technologies in terms of charging,” and “thinking always about the user.”

One of the innovative areas Wallbox is pushing into is artificial intelligence (AI). It might not seem like a logical fit, but Enric explained that, “we believe that in the future, the front end for things at home is going to be this: it’s going to be Apple Home, Google Home and Alexa.” These personal digital assistants are already making life easier for millions around the world by checking the weather, setting alarms and even performing much more complex tasks for owners.

Wallbox built integrations with each of these systems into its current generation of chargers, allowing owners to lean on AI to optimize car charging. “Thanks to our Google Home and Apple Home integration, you can ask your charger to be ready in the morning, the next day, and automatically, the charger will decide whether to use the minimum power and save money,” or to drink up as much off-peak power as it can while power is cheap.

As more and more utilities around the world move to time of use or even spot pricing for electricity, pricing quickly becomes a variable that homeowners will not be able to stay on top off or at the very least, will not want to have to manage. In that world, “it is very important that you charge your car at the specific moment,” and that’s something the Wallbox AI can help with. Owners can simply say ‘I want my car to be fully charged in the morning’ and the system will take care of the rest.

Bi-Directional Residential DC Charger

The team recently rolled out a DC charger for the home, which may sound like a strange addition to a home that does not have a grid connection capable of supporting the high speeds DC chargers are most commonly used at. Stepping back and looking at the new reality of home energy management systems and we have rooftop solar panels that put out DC power, and that energy is stored in DC batteries that can feed power directly into the DC batteries in an electric vehicle.

Skipping the inverter at each stage results in a more efficient system that can feed the things making and consuming DC power with DC without having to go through an inverter and only push or pull power to the AC side of the house or back to the AC grid as it is needed. In that world, in that home of the future (or today), DC charging makes sense and it is a brilliant example of how the team at Wallbox is looking ahead at the intersection of existing technologies and building products that make the future possible.

“What we have provided here in the market is that all of this is easy so we can charge very fast,” Enric said. “It’s bi-directional so you can store energy [in your car] and use it for your home.”

Bi-directional charging, also known as vehicle-to-grid functionality, is something many EV charging companies love to play with, but that has not seen much traction with automakers or customers willing to pay for the functionality to date. A handful of vehicles support the functionality, but the actual implementations to date have been limited to pilots and academic exercises.

Wallbox is pursuing a similar route, working on several pilot projects that, “focus on getting the power from the car and putting it into the grid.” The push into DC and the exploration of the potential of bi-directional charging show how Wallbox continues to push the envelope for EV charging innovation and how it continues to move the ball forward, one innovation, one software update at a time.

The Path Forward

Today, Wallbox is primarily focused on Europe, building on a solid foundation of 20% of its sales in its home country of Spain. It is also making headway in Norway, the UK, and Germany and is ramping up to support sales into more international markets. “For the next year, we are planning to start operations in California and China,” Enric said.

The company will move into the US in early 2019 and is already working with an unnamed automotive manufacturer in China on expansion there. Wallbox will primarily be playing in the AC charging space in the near term, with DC charging coming at a later date.

Wallbox more than doubled its business in the last year and has plans to grow about the same or even quite a bit faster over the coming 12 months as the eyes of customers around the world are opened as to the possibilities that come with electric vehicles. “The people are looking for electric vehicles to become mainstream,” Enric said. “It is pushing the market to make electric vehicles,” which that means they will all need more chargers and that’s something Enric and his team at Wallbox are not at all upset about.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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