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SunPower CEO: Bidirectional charging 'will change the world for consumers'

Solar energy company SunPower built its reputation on creating a reliable infrastructure to power up homes through clean energy.

Now, it’s betting that electric vehicles will play a critical role in building that green system for consumers.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance Live (video above), CEO Peter Faricy pointed to bidirectional charging, EV charging that allows electricity to flow both ways, as key to accelerating the move towards electrification.

“This is really going to change the world for consumers,” Faricy said. “The grid today doesn't have enough capacity for all the future EV sales that we expect.”

Faricy’s comes on the heels of SunPower’s new collaboration with General Motors, agreeing to develop and install a new home energy system, allowing GM’s EVs to provide backup energy to residences. SunPower specifically plans to provide solar panels to GM customers to help bring energy costs down and provide a clean energy solution that allows drivers to avoid charging using fossil fuels.

“If you just plug in to your garage, and you don't have solar power, you're just connecting to usually coal or gas or whatever fossil fuel the local utility uses. You're only as green as your charging source,” Faricy said.

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While high gas prices helped accelerate EV adoption in the U.S., with emission-free cars accounting for roughly 5% of the market share, bidirectional charging has largely been limited so far. Only a handful of cars currently sold allow for that capability, including the Ford F-150 Lightning (F) and Kia EV6.

But researchers have increasingly pointed to the use of vehicles themselves as key sources of power, to fill the supply gaps that still remain in the power grid. With an aim to move to 100% zero-emission cars by 2035, California alone is expected to see peak charging demand more than double by 2030, according to a recent study by Stanford University.

While the Biden administration has targeted the deployment of half a million public charging units by 2030, most experts admit that number falls far short of the number of units needed to support the larger goal of slashing half of all gas-powered cars by 2030.

Nationally, the transition to electrification is estimated to add 2,000 TWh to annual energy demand by 2050 - a 40% increase - according to a study by global advisory group ICF, with 265 million EVs expected on the roads by 2050.

A Ford Motors pre-production all-electric F-150 Lightning truck prototype is seen at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. September 16, 2021   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
A Ford Motors pre-production all-electric F-150 Lightning truck prototype is seen at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. September 16, 2021 REUTERS/Rebecca Cook (Rebecca Cook / reuters)

Bidirectional charging enables energy to flow in and out of vehicles, allowing EVs to provide backup power to buildings or specific loads, through vehicle-to-building charging. Its mobility also allows for EVs to be deployed to sites prior to expected power outages and be used in an emergency, responding to natural disasters.

Faricy said SunPower’s new home energy system with GM will be deployed alongside the Silverado Pickup launch, set for 2024. In addition to providing homeowners with an additional source of energy, Faricy said it will also give drivers the opportunity to stretch their wallets while expanding the grid’s capacity.

“Silverado EV customers with a home energy system are also expected to be able to store solar-generated electricity in their compatible electric vehicle’s battery and export it directly into their properly equipped home during the hours when electricity costs the most, providing an opportunity for them to save even more money on electricity bills depending on home size, energy usage, and utility rates,” he said.

Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita

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