Someday, an Auto Company Will Double Its Sales by Selling Electric Drivetrains to Buildings

By Paul Savage Ten years ago, hybrid automobiles hit the road. While they aren’t yet sprouting up everywhere today, their little brother start/stop is. That continuing trend will create an opportunity for an automobile manufacturer to address the new market segments that David Crane is talking about. This changing utility model includes the battery management systems, charging and solar PV interfaces that Robyn Beavers is blazing a trail for.

What’s really interesting is that these components are all strikingly similar to the electronic components now included in your Ford Fusion,  FiatUSA’s 500 or GM’s Chevy Volt or Spark. And yet there are no parts in common between the mobile and stationary worlds. It doesn’t need to be this way.

None of this is news to the EMerge Alliance members who are working towards greater interoperability and parts commonality between these markets. But a big auto manufacturer hasn’t jumped in yet. Only a smaller one, Tesla Motors, has been making progress in this area. Tesla has many of the elements in place, and the cross-holdings of Elon Musk in SolarCity suggest he’ll be hunting for the largest possible market for these electronic platforms, along with the many batteries he wants to build for them. Amory Lovins has famously said there’s an enormous oilfield under Detroit, referring to the value waiting to be unlocked through more efficient vehicle design. Maybe there’s a car in every building just itching to get out and show how it can help too.

This is dramatic cross-silo thinking. I want Ernest Moniz to have a go-to guy in charge, and the Department of Energy Press Secretary to toot the American Ingenuity Horn about how the path to our future energy grid can run right through Motown. The autos have the justified reputation for reliability and cost containment – let’s pay them back by opening up a market to their skills that’s three times the size of their addressable market today: stationary power systems in buildings.

Paul Savage is the CEO of Nextek Power Systems, located at the Next Energy Center, and a founder of the EMerge Alliance.

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