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dcbel wants V2G technology in homes around the world

dcbel Inc. is banking on the growing need for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology with its r16 platf...

IMAGE: A dcbel home charger in a residential garage

A dcbel home charger in a residential garage. (Courtesy dcbel Inc.)

dcbel Inc. is banking on the growing need for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology with its r16 platform for residential homes — which can transfer energy from an electric vehicle (EV) to the house and back.

V2G, also known as bidirectional charging, describes an EV’s ability to both take in or discharge electricity.

The Montreal-based company’s home energy station is a smart home monitor that can do more than just charge the user’s electric vehicle(s). It can draw power from the EV at low-demand times, during a blackout, or be dependent on the schedule of the home. The r16 can also store energy back into the EV for later use.

dcbel also offers its system paired with the installation of solar panels on the roof of the home.

“Think about electric vehicles. They charge at home for more than 90 per cent of the time,” said Marc-André Forget, dcbel’s founder and CEO. “So we’re going to have to take about $1 billion worth of energy from the gas stations, and we’re going to need to move this energy into homes.

“The world of residential energy has also dramatically changed (from) 20 years ago, if you want to have access to electricity, the only possible way was to sign a contract with your local utility. But with solar panels (and) the capacity to equivalently store that energy for yourself all of a sudden . . . in some parts of the world, (you’re) choosing your utilities in a deregulated market.”

dcbel, founded in 2015, raised $61.7 million from a group of investors in 2021 — including Coatue Management, Real Ventures, WTI, Narrative Fund and later, Silicon Valley Bank.

The platform starts at $4,999, but costs can vary depending on the needs of the home, such as the size of the solar installation or whether or not a homeowner chooses to implement stationary storage as well.

dcbel’s r16 platform

According to dcbel’s site, the r16 can hold backup power for up to 76 hours and boasts of one mile on an EV for every minute of charge. That charge can be in either CHAdeMO (compatible with models like the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV) or Combined Charging System (used by models including the BMW i3, Kia e-Niro and Jaguar I-Pac).

While the platform can charge any EV, very few currently have bidirectional capability. Forget, however, believes every EV by the end of 2023 will incorporate V2G technology.

In April, the U.S. Department of Energy released an MOU that included automakers Ford, General Motors, Lucid, Nissan and Lion Electric, aimed at spurring V2G development. The same month, a report indicated Volkswagen will add bidirectional support to its modular electric drive platform later this year.

A dcbel FAQ states the average EV battery can provide five to 10 times the power of an average stationary battery, equal to about two to four days of power for an average North American single-family home.

dcbel’s operating system will work to minimize the home’s carbon footprint and energy usage. As well, the r16 can charge two EVs at once. Aside from its embrace of the circular economy – a home with the r16 platform and a solar roof would be almost entirely energy self-sufficient — Forget also said it would eliminate the need for utilities such as generators.

The company holds numerous patents both for the hardware and software. Forget estimates the product is “around two-thirds software.”

Dcbel’s platform is not for everyone, at least not yet. The r16 is designed for homes that are at least 3,000 square feet.

“Think about it as a Model S, it’s a premium product. I cannot say much right now, but we’re going to announce a product that will be more affordable in the months to come,” Forget said. “I call it ‘the dcbel for the rest of us.’ ”

Although the company has a plant in Quebec, it relies on East West Manufacturing, headquartered in Georgia but with Quebec locations, as well as the Toronto-based Celestica Inc. to manufacture its units. Last November, it opened a 10,000 square foot logistics and administration complex in Silicon Valley.

dcbel’s expansion plans

While Forget stressed dcbel is still a small company and the market remains in its infancy, he did not rule out the possibility of expanding beyond the residential market into commercial buildings or even factories to help manage their utilities. However, such a decision wouldn’t come until 2024 or 2025, as the residential market is, to him, the most underserved.

dcbel is in the midst of accepting reservations from homeowners in places like California, Texas, Florida and New York, as well as the U.K. for later this year. A recent release states by late 2023, the r16 will be available in all 50 U.S. states as well as the U.K. and France.

In the U.S. in particular, he noted the push for clean energy combined with increasing blackouts as a motivating factor for the rollouts. Regarding possible expansions overseas, Europe was singled out as the next probable move.

“The European continent is mostly dependent in their energy mix,” he said. “Between 20 to 40 per cent of their energy mix is coming from Russian gas and they want to be away from that dependence. I think it’s a good thing from a geopolitics point of view, it’s also a very good thing from an environmental point of view.”

“But . . . it’s only possible to do it fast enough if we do a bottom-up approach,” he said, noting that would include technologies such as r16.

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