GENERAL Motors plans to compete with Tesla's solar and Powerwall business by offering its own sun-generated power and storage system starting late next year.
A new business unit, called GM Energy, is working with SunPower to provide solar panels and home energy storage for residential and commercial users, the company announced in a statement. It's similar to Tesla's energy business, in which panels sold by the automaker charge a battery that supplies homes with electricity at night or during blackouts.
The home-energy system will be available alongside GM's electric version of the Chevrolet Silverado, production of which is expected to start next year.
For GM, it's a way to get into the energy-storage business while serving electric vehicle (EV) owners and giving them a cheaper way to charge their vehicles. As part of the initiative, GM is also cutting deals with utilities to enable buyers of its EVs to use their vehicle's battery to power the home if there is a blackout.
That service will begin next year in a pilot project between GM and PG&E, which provides service in California. Ford Motor offers similar capability with its F-150 Lightning pickup.
"The reliability of the US electrical power grid has never been more important," said Travis Hester, vice president of GM EV growth operations. GM Energy seeks to offer "sustainable energy products and services that can help mitigate the effect of power outages and provide customers with resilient and cost-effective energy management".
GM is working with other utilities to set up similar pilot programmes, including Consolidated Edison and New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, the company said.
The solar panel and storage business hasn't been a big part of Tesla's revenue, though it is growing. The company said solar deployments rose 25 per cent in the second quarter.
"We really expect a large number of GM customers who buy an electric vehicle over time to want to put solar and solar battery on their house," Peter Faricy, SunPower's chief executive officer, said in an interview Tuesday.
With some US regions seeing an increase in blackouts, more companies will be competing to sell power solutions - especially solar for home and commercial fleet use - said Sam Abuelsamid, principal research analyst at Guidehouse Insights. Tesla is selling stationary energy storage, as is Generac Holdings.
"We're going to see major automakers all going down this path," Abuelsamid said in an interview. "There may not be enough power in some parts of the country, so people may be more interested in solar. The bigger part of this will be the commercial side with fleet customers." BLOOMBERG