General Motors takes on Tesla with new energy division

The car maker is now selling electric vehicle chargers, solar panels and other energy products to EV owners and utilities

General Motors is expanding beyond car-making, with plans to offer energy storage and management services to residential and commercial customers through its new GM Energy unit in a move that puts it in even greater competition with Tesla.

“We’re getting into the entire ecosystem of energy management,” GM executive Travis Hester said in an interview.

“Our competition in this space on the [automaker] side is really only Tesla, which is a strong energy management company,” added Hester, who heads electric vehicle (EV) growth operations. “There are a lot of analogies you can draw with Tesla.”

Tesla’s seven-year-old energy generation and storage business, which includes solar panels and stationary batteries, lost $129m (£117m) last year on revenues of $2.8bn (£2.5bn).

Hester said GM saw a total addressable market of $120bn (£108bn) to $150bn (£135bn) in energy storage and management. He declined to provide a revenue projection for GM Energy.

GM Energy will bundle the existing Ultium Charge 360 public charging service with two new units, Ultium Home and Ultium Commercial, that will offer stationary storage batteries, as well as solar panels and hydrogen fuel cells, the company said on Tuesday.

The Ultium Home service will offer stationary wall boxes, similar to Tesla’s Powerwall units, with sales and installation scheduled to start in late 2023, timed to the launch of the first Chevrolet Silverado EV trucks aimed at private customers.

As Ford does with its F-150 Lightning, the Silverado EV will have bidirectional capability, which means it will be able to feed electricity back into the home during a power outage.

GM’s commercial service will offer similar capability to businesses, through larger stationary storage units as well as micro-grids connected to hydrogen fuel cells developed by the automaker. Businesses, in turn, will be able to sell energy back to utilities during peak power consumption periods.

GM will team with SunPower Corporation to provide customers with solar panels to enhance energy generation.

“This is a new space for us,” Hester said. “We have core competencies in vehicles and batteries, in cell chemistry and scale manufacturing. Put that together with our expertise in fuel cells, our dealer network, what we’ve been doing with OnStar and connectivity, and it seems like an obvious step for us.”

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