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Q&A with dcbel

If you’re looking to electrify your home, you might be confused by the various components you need and how they all fit together. dcbel, a Canadian company, is trying to make the home electrification process easier with their Home Energy Station – a product that serves as an electric vehicle (EV) charger, solar inverter, and storage inverter. We sat down with dcbel to learn more about their company, the Home Energy Station, and their advice for homeowners. 

The history of dcbel

[ES] Tell us a bit about dcbel – what’s the background of your company? When were you founded? Where are you based?

[dcbel] dcbel was founded in 2015 in Montreal, Canada by Marc-André Forget, our current CEO, Dan Fletcher, now our Head of Ecosystems, and Ron Denom, our COO. Marc-André built a career around developing new technology and advising the world’s largest utilities on the adoption of EVs and distributed energy systems. Dan worked in the distributed energy resource and microgrid space for several years, while Ron presided over an engineering multinational and co-founded a cleantech company specializing in waste management.

What united them was the sense that the electrical grid would need to undergo a massive transformation as a rapidly growing subset of the population began increasing their energy self-reliance.

dcbel addresses that opportunity through innovative hardware and software that puts people at the center of the modern energy ecosystem. The company owns several global power conversion patents that make its flagship r16 Home Energy Station a category-defining product. dcbel is growing rapidly and expanding in multiple countries.

[ES] What’s dcbel’s mission?

[dcbel] To deliver clean, reliable and sustainable energy so everyone can live a life without compromise.

dcbel’s Home Energy Station

[ES] Tell us about your Home Energy Station, the dcbel r16 – what equipment does it replace?

[dcbel] dcbel r16 Home Energy Station is a small wall mounted device that gives everyone ownership over their energy supply. It acts as a bidirectional direct current (DC) EV charger, a Level 2 EV charger, a solar inverter and a stationary battery power inverter. We have integrated the equivalent of six different pieces of equipment into one solution.

dcbel r16 uses machine learning and AI to optimize the flow of energy between these components. It keeps track of external factors like the weather and utility time-of-use pricing to decide whether it’s best to sell, store or use your power at any given moment.

[ES] How does the r16 compare to other electric vehicle chargers?

[dcbel] dcbel r16 delivers a faster, more efficient charge and is designed to leverage bidirectional functionality like vehicle-to-home (V2H) power flow.

Typical EV chargers on the market send alternating current (AC) from the grid to the vehicle. It’s important to note that AC is unsuitable for battery charging, and the electrical current needs to pass through a rectifier built into the vehicle that transforms it into DC electricity.

The strength of the current that the onboard rectifier can send to the battery is limited, and that translates into a cap on charging times. For example, if an EV can only accept 7 kilowatts (kW) of AC power, using a 10 kW Level 2 charger would not result in a faster charge.

DC power, on the other hand, is always granted a direct “high speed” route to the battery. dcbel r16 offers DC charging via standard CCS or CHAdeMO connectors.

A home DC charger can also take advantage of vehicle-to-home (V2H) capabilities that normal Level 2 chargers can’t support. V2H allows an EV to be used as a backup power source. This is helpful in the event of a power outage but can also be leveraged when utility rates are high. dcbel r16 considers several external factors to automate V2H power flow.

[ES] How does the r16 compare to other solar inverters?

[dcbel] The patented power conversion technology at the heart of dcbel r16 makes it a very efficient 15.2 kW solar inverter. It has a power factor of above 99% and less than 3% total harmonic distortion. It can power a home with solar energy during a blackout, and charge an EV using solar power too.

[ES] How does the r16 work with solar batteries?

[dcbel] dcbel r16 is fully compatible with stationary batteries, allowing homeowners to easily tie solar and storage together. Our Home Energy Station automatically leverages a connected battery to power the entire home, reducing energy costs and carbon footprint.

[ES] What’s the reasoning behind designing an integrated solution like the dcbel r16?

[dcbel] Our homes are wired in AC, but some people may be surprised by how big of a role DC plays in their lives. The process of converting AC into DC actually happens anytime you recharge a battery-powered device. Small electronics that need DC power, like laptops and smartphones, come with their own small power conversion adapters. But bidirectional EV chargers, solar panels and stationary batteries are all large DC appliances that would create a lot of clutter if wired separately, and manually managing them would inevitably result in energy losses.

dcbel r16 is the power converter that ties everything together while taking up only a quarter of the wall space of comparable solutions. As people look to reduce their reliance on the grid in the name of energy security, they can trust dcbel r16 to automatically manage and deploy their alternative sources of home energy with the efficiency promised by machine learning.

Purchasing the dcbel Home Energy Station

[ES] Where are Home Energy Stations available?

[dcbel] dcbel’s product rollout is territory-based. We are currently active in the states of California and New York. By the end of the year, homeowners in Texas, Florida and Washington state will be able to purchase dcbel r16 as well. Anyone interested in our Home Energy Station should complete our no obligation reservation form to be added to our waitlist and receive updates on availability.

[ES] How much does the r16 cost and how does this price compare to other options? How long does the installation take?

[dcbel] dcbel r16 has a base price of $4,999. An equivalent setup consisting of solar inverters, a DC fast charger, a home energy monitor and other equipment could cost upwards of $20,000.

Installation will be performed by one of our Smart Home Integration Partners (SHIPs), a local expert who will perform a site visit and propose a plan tailored to the individual needs of the customer. A dcbel unit can be typically installed and connected in two to four hours.

[ES] Who should be considering purchasing a dcbel Home Energy Station?

[dcbel] People looking to build a new home can integrate green energy right into the blueprint stage, which is not only more efficient, but also sets up homeowners for decades of energy security regardless of how their needs grow over time. Plus, states like California have updated their building codes so that new homes are legally required to incorporate net-zero sources of energy like residential solar.

Anyone considering solar panels would be well served by a Home Energy Station. When severe weather hits, or utilities shut off power for safety reasons, having a home energy backup system can be an effective solution.

At the same time, more people are taking an interest in EVs as gas prices continue to climb and evolved battery technology has diminished range anxiety by a wide margin.

Our Home Energy Station is for anyone looking for an integrated and versatile backup power solution that can squeeze every drop of efficiency and value out of their solar and EV investments.

[ES] Does the r16 work with all electric vehicles?

[dcbel] dcbel r16 can charge any electric vehicle using the J1772, CHAdeMO, and CCS standards.

Car enthusiasts may have noticed a handful of new EVs touting two-way power flow upon release, and we think it’s only a matter of time before the functionality is enabled in all EVs.

dcbel r16 customers will be some of the first homeowners to enjoy V2H thanks to our future-proof technology. Compatibility with future EVs is ensured thanks to over-the-air software updates.

Advice for homeowners

[ES] What do you think homeowners need to know about solar batteries vs. vehicle-to-grid technology?

[dcbel] The era of unidirectional flow of energy (i.e., from a power plant to the home) is coming to an end as new power generation and storage technologies become more affordable. Solar batteries, V2G and other distributed energy capabilities can work together to provide maximum value for homeowners. dcbel r16 uses algorithms to manage the relationships between these assets and move energy where it’s most economical. For instance, solar energy can be stored in home stationary batteries or an EV’s battery, and can later be sold back to the grid when demand is strong.

[ES] What should homeowners consider when shopping for electric vehicle chargers?

[dcbel] EV chargers can be very simple, but they can also form a key part of a home energy ecosystem. That’s a cutting-edge concept, but it’s slowly creeping into the mainstream today thanks in part to carmakers demonstrating the ways their new EVs can supply energy at times when the grid is down or otherwise inaccessible.

Homeowners should decide whether a typical Level 2 charger will serve their needs in the long run. If they have an interest in charging their EV with solar power, leveraging V2H or reducing home charging times, a Home Energy Station like ours is indispensable. dcbel r16 is akin to upgrading from a flip phone to a smartphone in the way it unlocks a wide range of new and helpful features.

[ES] What are people not asking about EVs yet that they should be?

[dcbel] There’s a lot of buzz surrounding EV fast charging times. The latest cars can get a huge power boost in under 20 minutes of charging at a Level 3 Fast Charger. But customers should inquire about the consequences of over-relying on public fast chargers, especially those that deliver 100 kW of power or more. These chargers create a lot of heat and can negatively affect battery chemistry over time through a phenomenon called ripple. The key point is that while DC plays a central role in EV charging, high-voltage DC charging is different and not recommended as a primary charging method.

dcbel r16 presents an ideal middle ground between Level 2 AC chargers with limited performance and Level 3 DC Fast Chargers. Customers wondering how they can leverage their EV’s battery without degrading it will appreciate what we offer: faster charging that’s also safe and controlled. Our Home Energy Station incorporates active battery management that prevents battery degradation during charging and V2H power flow.

Start electrifying your home today through EnergySage

The key to home electrification is solar energy. When you register for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace, you’ll receive custom quotes for solar systems from our network of pre-vetted installers. By comparing quotes, you’ll be able to find a system that meets your needs at the right price. If you plan on installing an EV charger, be sure to make a note in your profile so installers can correctly size your system.


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