For car companies to sell electric cars, they have to get into the power business.

That seems to be Volkswagen's conclusion in announcing a new business to set up electric-car chargers around Europe, and sell clean energy and battery storage to homes.

Volkswagen plans to set up a new brand called Elli—for "electric life"—to sell ancillary electric services such as clean power and chargers. The services will initially be focused in Europe. 

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Elli will include several services:

- Clean home power. The company will launch a new service called Naturstrom that delivers 100-percent renewable power to customers' homes. These customers don't have to own an electric car or even a Volkswagen.

Volkswagen charging at VW Elli charging station

Volkswagen charging at VW Elli charging station


- It will sell various levels of home chargers, including two 11-kilowatt wall boxes, a basic model and a higher-end one with WiFi and smart charging capability. For customers wanting future-proof installations, it will also offer 22-kw DC chargers that can connect to a smart grid and enable two-way vehicle-to-grid integration. Volkswagen will develop software to integrate the systems to optimize charge times and ensure cars are charged only with renewable power. The company suggested that the system could use car's batteries, for example, to store home solar power. It did not suggest that Volkswagen might get into the business of building or installing solar panels as Tesla does through Solar City. 

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- The company offered few details, but said it will also offer stationary home batteries, similar to Tesla's Powerwalls.

- Elli will also work to build up fast, Level 2 destination charging, including at 4,000 of its own dealers by 2020 as well as providing consulting services to other businesses and parking garages about how to install and operate charging stations. 

- It will also develop systems to make public charging simpler and easier, for example by developing a simplified payment structure that can work with multiple networks. Volkswagen is part of a consortium of German automakers working to build a network of public DC fast-charging stations across Europe called Ionity. 

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In the U.S., Volkswagen is developing a widespread network of public chargers under the Electrify America brand, in accordance with a court order over its diesel emissions cheating settlement. It's not clear whether some of Elli's European efforts could eventually be rolled into Electrify America or Volkswagen in the U.S.

"Volkswagen is going to force the pace of the urgently needed transport and energy transition to emission-neutral e-mobility," said
Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen brand Board Member responsible for E-Mobility.