Amid EV promises, Volkswagen announces plans to launch an energy supply division

Inside of VW tire
ShutterstockSergey Kohl

The convergence between the automotive, energy and technology sectors took another major step forward last week, as the Volkswagen Group unveiled plans to become a power supplier.

The German auto giant announced it is establishing a new company within the group to provide "energy offerings and charging solutions." Working under the banner Elli Group GmbH, the company will be headquartered in Berlin and is tasked with developing products and services connected with energy and charging for the brands across the VW Group.

Thomas Ulbrich, VW brand board member responsible for E-Mobility, said the new division underscored the company's commitment to driving the transition towards zero-emission mobility.

"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," he said in a statement. "The new company will play its part with energy offerings from renewable sources and smart charging solutions. 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."

The move follows a raft of electric vehicle commitments from VW last year, which saw the company attempt to move on from the "dieselgate" scandal with plans to invest $39 billion in a drastically expanded fleet of zero-emission models, beef up EV production capacity around the world, introduce new EV sharing schemes and end production of conventional internal combustion engine cars as early as 2026.

Thorsten Nicklaß, former CEO of the company's Digital Energy Solutions joint venture, has been designated as CEO of Elli and is set to lead the development of a wide range of new energy supply and EV charging services and technologies.

"Our mission is to take e-mobility out of its niche and to place it firmly in the mainstream," he said in a statement. "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."

VW said the new company would provide a wide range of services, including offering renewable power to customers as part of a portfolio of intelligent power tariffs, installing and operating Wallboxes and charging stations, and introducing IT-based energy management systems.

"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.

VW said the goal was to have a "large number of solutions" for private and commercial customers ahead of the 2020 launch of its new Volkswagen ID EV brand.

The new offerings are set to include domestic charging technologies and tariffs, vehicle to grid functionality to allow EVs to act as energy storage units, integration with storage and solar technologies to help turn buildings into small power stations, charging infrastructure and services for businesses, and public charging infrastructure.

The move is part of a wider trend that has seen a host of auto, energy, and technology companies step up investment in new services and technologies that promise to challenge the historic divisions between the industries and deploy a range of highly integrated new clean technologies.

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