dcbel (formerly known as Ossiaco) has developed a new inverter that it believes will truly revolutionize the worlds of residential energy management, solar, and EV charging in one fell swoop. As a privately-owned and funded company, dcbel has been flying under the radar for some time now, but we spoke to the leadership team and it is clear the team is perched at the edge of the cliff, ready to take the plunge into the market at scale.
dcbel’s CEO Marc-André Forget told me about the new residential DC charger the company has developed and how the company was primed to make a big move into the market. Then he dropped the price. At US$5,000, the charger is far from affordable on the surface, but he just smiled and kept going. If the team at dcbel can deliver on the full potential of the technology it is working with, the new device has the potential to be a complete game changer in the world of distributed energy resources (DER), delivering unparalleled value to homeowners.
The Best of All Worlds
dcbel started with the seemingly simple mission of enabling life without compromises. They are technologists, passionate about the potential of renewables and saw opportunity in the host of challenges associated with integrating renewables into the home and the grid pose. Adding solar should not mean having to manually adjust the time you plug your vehicle in to charge to utilize the solar being generated. People should be able to plug it in when it’s convenient and let the software do the heavy lifting. They envisioned faster charging at home for those looking for the ability to rapidly refill their vehicles.
The hardware evolved as they explored the natural synergies between the various technologies in the residential new energy space. Imagine it like working with a bunch of new sets of LEGOs. dcbel’s team took the dozen or so technologies found in a fully loaded renewable households as the LEGO building blocks including inverters, rapid shutdown devices, EV chargers, and broke them down into their constituent components.
From there, they tossed them into a room with some of their best engineering talent and after enough blood, sweat, and tears, the dcbel r16 was born and brings together what they see as the best of all worlds. The magic of dcbel’s $5,000 residential DC EV charger is that it isn’t just an EV charger. It leverages what is otherwise a simple inverter and leverages it as the heart of the home energy system.
The Ultimate Home EV Charger
First and foremost, dcbel r16 is a dual nozzle, bi-directional DC EV charger. That’s a mouthful, so let’s unpack it. It comes with two EV charging nozzles that can crank power into the car. One is a DC charging nozzle (either CHAdeMO or CCS) that can add up to 60 miles of range per hour. The second is more of a standard level 2 EV charger, but the fact that this single device already performs two functions for a new energy household is a great start. In our home, just this functionality alone would replace the two level 2 EV chargers.
The DC charger allows for bi-directional charging, meaning compatible vehicles can gulp down power from the home into the battery, then push it back into the home if needed. Vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-building tech isn’t being leveraged by many automakers or utilities yet, but it’s great to have a device that has an eye to the future rather than both feet planted firmly in the inflexible past.
Sunshine? Sure, I’ll Take It
The humble r16 charger Marc-André told me about is also able to convert the DC generated by a rooftop solar system into the AC power most homes run off of. That alone is not exceedingly special, but remember, this thing started out as an EV charger. Eliminating the inverter or inverters required for a solar system and consolidating the functionality into what we’ll call an EV charger is more than just cleaning up the installation, though it does that as well.
More importantly, it eliminates the need to install one or two more devices in the home. In our brand spanking new, high tech, state of the art Tesla Solarglass Roof installation, the functionality included in r16 (so far) would take us from 4 devices on the wall down to 2 and that’s saying nothing of the wiring, junction boxes, circuit breakers, and fuses in between.
The improvements translate to savings at the bottom line and a faster installation. That’s meaningful to both the solar installer and the homeowner, who can both enjoy closing the deal and getting the system up and running even faster.
A Resilient Home
After being routed by wildfires over the last few years, California utilities implemented Public Safety Power Shutoffs that can cut grid power anywhere from a handful of hours up to a couple of months at a time. That instability in and of itself creates perhaps the strongest case possible for adding solar and energy storage to a home.
The r16 was built to improve the integration of renewables into the home and to maximize the benefits a homeowner is able to realize as a result. A key component of the renewable home of the future is energy storage and the team at dcbel see the massive battery in EVs and built the bi-directional r16 to tap into that power.
When the grid is humming along nicely, rooftop solar generation flows into the home, into the EV, and to the grid without a second thought. But, in the unlikely even the grid goes down, r16 is able to tap into the power stored in the EV’s battery to power the home. If the grid outage extends beyond the capacity of the EV battery, homeowners can drive to an EV charger to top up, extending the ability to run without grid power.
Store It, Use It, Send It
The efficiencies of consolidating so many appliances into a single appliance that does it all is huge and that would be worth a new product by itself, but dcbel didn’t stop there. Everything they built into r16 up to this point in the article already exists. They took r16 a few steps further with true intelligent home energy management with the capability to tap into an existing energy storage system.
The system can also optimize the DC power and funnel it directly into an EV battery. Enabling the optimal flow of current to the destination that makes the most sense at the time is one of the key achievements of dcbel’s new device. Eliminating unnecessary conversions from DC to AC and back to DC improves the overall efficiency of the home electrical system.
dcbel’s single device can replace the traditional solar inverter system and two home EV chargers with a single device that is then supercharged with dcbel’s home energy management software. That’s what the world of residential new energy systems needs right now. We have all the components to let homeowners generate and store their own power, but the market is missing the product that sits at the center and transforms all of the players and their instruments into a beautiful orchestra.
A New Paradigm
At its core, dcbel is a tech company that melded together its mastery of inverters with an impressive array of algorithms in a single product that cleans up the home powered by renewables. The company was founded by a team of revolutionaries who saw the potential for uniting the worlds of EV charging, solar inverters, and energy storage into a single, intelligent smart home energy manager with experience working at multinational corporations who took the leap into the unknown seven years ago.
Together, they created a disruptive new product that takes a bold leap forward into the renewable, resilient future we all want, smoothing over the seams between them, streamlining the installation, and eliminating complexity in one fell swoop. It also saves homeowners a ton of cash along the way. It turns out that Marc-André was right when he said r16 was an affordable EV charger at $5,000. If anything, he was downplaying what the team at dcbel has achieved.
dcbel’s r16 is slated to launch in summer 2020 and with the price tag sitting at $5,000 for a 15.2kW solar inverter, bidirectional DC EV charger, AC charger, backup manager, and the intelligence that makes everything play nicely together. Given the significant improvements it brings to the world of renewables, EV charging, blackout prevention, and intelligent home energy management, I expect it to be in high demand.