First it was Tesla, with their 2016 acquisition of Solar City. Then it was the landmark partnership between Ford and Sunrun in 2021, when the latter became the preferred charging solution for the launch of the F-150 Lightning truck. In October of 2022, GM unveiled GM Energy and its partnership with SunPower.
Now, Hyundai has rolled out Hyundai Home, a service designed to help the company’s electric vehicle customers match up with installers of EV chargers, rooftop solar and battery storage.
There’s an unmistakable trend here of car companies that see huge opportunities not only in the sale of electric vehicles, but in the upgrading of home electrification solutions that stretch far beyond transportation.
There are twin benefits to this strategy for the car makers.
First, the provision of one relatively inexpensive EV charging solution, removes a long-established friction point for prospective EV buyers. Lack of charging infrastructure has long been cited as a reason for someone not to purchase their first electric car.
But with 86% of all EV charging taking place at the home of the vehicle’s owner, it is by providing home EV charging solutions that the car companies can best remove that obstacle. Lining up every electric vehicle buyer with a simple path to installing a home EV charger will surely lead to faster adoption of electric cars.
The second benefit, though, is potentially even more lucrative – a chance to get a seat at the table of a home electrification bonanza that could become a trillion dollar industry in the years and decades to come.
While it’s understandable that someone buying an electric car would also want to get a charging system installed, for these companies these partnerships are more about evolving from mere automotive manufacturers into “Smart Mobility Solution Providers.” (That’s Hyundai’s jargon, but it’s the kind of corporate-speak that could easily have come from any of the other three).
It’s a fascinating development in the home electrification movement. The markets for electric vehicles, rooftop solar, and residential energy storage are still relatively young in most parts of the US, so there could be potential for automobile manufacturers to become big players as the move toward home decarbonization gathers steam.
But it’s unlikely that customers will feel comfortable buying home energy upgrades from car companies. The process of buying a car is often torturous, so extending that hard-sell experience into the home would not be a welcome development. That’s why partnerships with companies that already excel in the home-improvement space are important.
Hyundai has partnered with Electrum, a Los Angles company that operates in sixteen states across the country, acting as a marketplace for local solar installers and home electrification contractors.
That makes their arrangement different from, say, Sunrun, which is using its partnership with Ford to expand its own line of offerings beyond just solar panels. Meanwhile, GM Energy sells a variety of products for homes and businesses, including solar panels through its Ultium Home, Ultium Commercial and Ultium Charge 360. And, of course, Tesla has been combining EVs and rooftop solar for years.
So, it won’t be a car salesperson making the pitch for solar panels, heat pumps, or smart panels. Instead, Ford, for example, is using the sale of an EV to create a lead for Sunrun to sell home energy products. Sunrun is the largest rooftop solar retailer in the country and has big plans to expand into other areas of home electrification.
Similarly, GM is working with SunPower, another big solar company, while Tesla already has in-house production and sales of EVs, solar panels and battery storage systems, although it recently scaled back solar sales and operations in several markets.
Behind all this is one of the most exciting unique selling propositions of an electric vehicle – its ability to act as a backup battery for a house or even for the grid.
More and more of the EVs that have most recently come to market are able to export electricity through bi-directional charging. Homes that have a power system that are capable of importing that electricity from a vehicle are less common. But that’s where the opportunity lies.
It won’t be long before most EV owners will be able to use their vehicles as a source of power during outages, as well as receive payment from grid operators for allowing them to draw on their EV batteries in times of peak demand.
Automakers are starting to realize that it’s important to look beyond just the vehicle and think about how that vehicle will connect with both the home and the grid, and how the two come together. Many solar reps already use the growing adoption of electric vehicles as part of their pitch to homeowners. Now, automakers are starting to use the growing adoption of solar, heat pumps, and smart panels as part of their pitch to EV buyers.