We knew Wallbox was one of the most innovative electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) manufacturers out there after talking with CEO Enric Asuncion last year, but the prospect of a new product had us excited. The new unit adds bi-directional DC charging capability to the home via a new CHAdeMO adapter.
CleanTechnica reconnected with Asuncion, along with Wallbox US country director Douglas Alfaro, to talk about the launches in the US and China as well as Wallbox’s new V2G-capable residential DC charger.
Global Product Launch
On July 12th, Wallbox announced that it was becoming the first “global” EV charging company in the world by moving into the US and Chinese markets. (The three core EV markets are China, Europe, and North America, and no competing company has its foot in each region.) Wallbox is launching in China with the Pulsar, a connected, intelligent EV charging station for the home. It comes with bluetooth connectivity that allows homeowners to connect to the device locally for additional functionality.
“The Pulsar is our entry model, which has a Bluetooth connection,” Wallbox CEO Enric Asuncion explained. “With Bluetooth, you can connect to the charger, schedule, and connect to all your charging stations. It’s like a fitbit.”
In the US, Wallbox is bringing the Pulsar Plus charger, which it expects to have certified for use in the country by the end of the year. The Puslar Plus brings compact, functional EV charging into the home, with Wallbox’s signature intelligence components. The Plus part of the package represents the additional connectivity that comes in the form of a WiFi connection that allows for remote visibility and management of the device.
The powerful 9.6kW Pulsar Plus EVSE represents a significant improvement in charging power/speed compared to traditional 6.6kW “level 2” EV chargers. Wallbox built the Pulsar Plus with functionality that allows multiple EVs to play nicely together on a single home grid connection.
The DC Charger
If the Pulsar and Pulsar Plus represent incremental improvements over traditional EVSE, the next product has the potential to be a game changer. Wallbox has launched a new DC charger for the home that packs vehicle-to-grid functionality under the hood. “The technology of the DC charger is not only interesting because it’s bi-directional,” Asuncion explained. “It’s interesting because it’s compact.”
Wallbox’s new DC charger for the home operates at 7.4kW in both directions. It can pull down power into the car at a rate of 7.4kW or push power back up from the car’s battery at 7.4kW through its CHAdeMO adapter. Alfaro excitedly shared that it is the “only DC bi-directional charger on the market.”
To date, the world of electric vehicle manufacturers has not been very supportive of vehicle-to-grid technology, but Wallbox sees a changing of the winds. “There are two parties interested: some utilities that are trying to offer a business model to their customers who can make some money,” Asuncion said. “From the customer perspective, there are some people who want to make money.”
The key to enabling vehicle-to-grid (V2G) bi-directional charging capability is that you have to have a charger/EVSE that supports it and a vehicle that supports it. The case for V2G is strong, as every electric vehicle on the market is underpinned by a massive energy storage facility. Some store power in the form of lithium-ion battery packs that reach up to 100kWh, while others store power in the form of hydrogen tanks. This battery is already paid for and V2G simply allows customers to take advantage of that energy storage capability to push power back to the grid and get paid for it. “When you are providing grid services, when you are putting power back into the grid, you can even make money,” Alfaro said.
The new DC charging unit is only “slightly bigger than other AC charging stations that mount to the wall,” Alfaro said. Its compact size is a breakthrough in DC charging and sets a new high bar for compact DC EVSE design.
The new charger is already stirring up interest and many industry leaders were asking about its availability at Wallbox’s US launch party on July 12th at the Formula E Season Finale in New York City. Wallbox plans to bring the new unit into the US market in early 2020. Though, it won’t be cheap when it does arrive.
“Obviously we are targeting a price point that is residential friendly,” Asuncion said. The price is not fixed yet, but they expect it to be around $4,000. With the average price of a retail AC EVSE hovering around the $500 mark, it is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but it does bring impressive new functionality to the table. Whether Wallbox can stir up enough demand with automotive OEMs, utilities, and customers to make it fly at that price point remains to be seen.
Easier EVSE Installation
Today, it is easy to buy an electric vehicle that fits just about any use case. Adding faster charging at home (while not always necessary, thanks to level 1 charging from a wall outlet) is not quite as straightforward. “EV owners are starting to learn more about EVs when making a purchase and doing research,” Alfaro said. “They are more sophisticated in their purchase strategies.”
Buying one of Wallbox’s level 2 chargers is much like buying anything else on the internet. They will be available on Amazon and other commonly used online marketplaces. But that is only the first step in the process. When the package arrives, it needs to be installed, and that means wiring, which usually means hiring an electrician. I posed the question to Enric and Douglas, who both came to Wallbox after putting in time working at Tesla, so this is familiar territory for them.
“We want to de-mystify, we want to simplify charging,” Alfaro told me. That starts with the initial purchase, but in reality, the process extends into the home with the installation process. “By buying a Wallbox charger, they are more comfortable and confident in buying an EV,” he said. Wallbox is working to build up its installation support team and is partnering with installers to make the process even easier. “We will have a network of nationwide installers at launch.”
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