Give and Take

Everybody wants their energy ‘green’ these days – ideally self-generated and ready to power their electric cars. The automobile industry has been listening.

BMW offers i Series customers a car port built by Solarwatt. The photovoltaically generated electricity is stored in a battery and trickled to the car overnight

BMW offers i Series customers a car port built by Solarwatt. The photovoltaically generated electricity is stored in a battery and trickled to the car overnight. Photo: BMW

The automobile and renewable energy industries may sound an unlikely partnership, akin to that of cat and dog. Yet the two are by no means averse to working together – Volkswagen was teaming up with ‘green’ German power company Lichtblick long before the dawn of electric cars. Lichtblick’s co-generation plant uses a VW motor that simultaneously generates heat and power, making it extremely efficient. However, the marriage of these two companies ended somewhat acrimoniously; during the project, it became apparent that the product was no longer attractive – the market had changed. Nowadays, Lichtblick is buddied up with US trendsetter Tesla, marketing its batteries which can store excess wind or solar energy until needed. Stuttgart car company Daimler and Munich firm Mobility House have a well-thought-out partnership, thanks to the fact that current electric cars are inherently flawed. This is because as it stands, after around ten years, their batteries are no longer powerful enough for road usage as their range falls below the guaranteed lower limit. Yet these old batteries retain between 70 and 80 percent of their original capacity and are still far too good to be carelessly tossed away. Mobility House repurposes these old batteries as stationary energy storage units for commercial usage. This could prove a lucrative business model for all involved – Daimler is able to calculate the prices of its batteries differently if they don’t end up in the trash at the end of their road usage, whilst Mobility House is provided with a source of discounted materials for its products. Daimler also offers new batteries for solar-powered family homes, under the name ‘Mercedes Benz Energy Storage’. The reason behind this is that it is becoming less and less lucrative to sell self-generated energy back to the grid – experts recommend storing excess energy for private usage at a later date. Meanwhile, Bavarian car manufacturer BMW is working with Dresden firm ‘Solarwatt’ on a solution for its i Series cars. The i3 and i8 models may now fill up on electricity from a car-port fitted with solar panels and a battery, meaning that whilst out on the road, the solar cells are already charging for the next adventure. Prices start at around 10,000 euros, depending on version.

Mercedes Benz offers battery modules that save excess energy. Management is by way of the energy provider’s app

Mercedes Benz offers battery modules that save excess energy. Management is by way of the energy provider’s app. Photo: Daimler AG

 

Author: Karl-Gerhard Haas

 

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