Wallbox introduces its second-generation Quasar bidirectional electric vehicle charger at CES this week. The Quasar 2 is designed specifically for the North American market and utilizes the CCS (Combined Charging System) standard.
Two years ago at CES 2019, Wallbox introduced its first version of the Quasar and we were there to report the news. That unit was only available in CHAdeMO and the plan was to launch it in Europe later that year and then offer it in the US shortly after. While it did become available in select European markets for the price of about $4,000, it was never offered in North America.
Now we know why. Wallbox decided to redesign the Quasar, increase the power delivery from 7.4 kW to 11.5 kW, and switch the connector from CHAdeMO, which is being phased out in North America and Europe, to the dominant standard in those markets, CCS.
The additional power delivery is significant, and not only for EVs that can accept 11.5 kW on level 2 charging but for all EVs. That's because the Quasar 2 is a DC charger, so it delivers power directly to the vehicle's battery. The power doesn't need to go through the vehicle's onboard charger, and thus, isn't limited to its maximum output.
Therefore, the Quasar 2 will deliver up to 11.5 kW to EVs like a BMW i3 or a Chevy Bolt that are normally limited to 7.7 kW while charging at home on level 2. The Quasar 2 connects to the myWallbox app through Wifi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, or 4G.
However, the feature that really makes the Quasar 2 interesting is its Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) bidirectional power capabilities. The Quasar 2 allows owners with compatible EVs to use their car as an emergency generator in instances of power outages. But we need to stress "compatible EVs". Just because an EV uses the CCS standard and can be charged with the Quasar 2, doesn't mean it is capable of bidirectional power delivery.
In fact, outside of the Lucid Air, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, and Kia EV6, we don't believe any EV available today is ready for CCS bidirectional power flow. The Ford F-150 Lightning will soon be able to, but there's also the question of whether or not these vehicles will communicate properly with the Quasar to perform the task. We're sure Wallbox has thought about these issues, but questions remain, nonetheless.
Blackout Mode will also require additional equipment, like an automatic transfer switch to isolate the house from the grid during power outages. That's necessary so the power the vehicle is supplying to the home doesn't back-feed the grid. If it did, it would pose a danger to utility workers that are working on the power lines to restore power.
“The average American experienced more than eight hours of power interruption in 2020,” said Douglas Alfaro, General Manager of Wallbox North America. “Whether it’s caused by an earthquake, hurricane, wildfire or simply related to an overload on the power grid, a power outage can have a detrimental impact on homeowners that can last for hours or even days. With blackout mode, we are able to offer EV owners some relief by helping mitigate the impact of a major energy disruption in the home.”
With Blackout Mode, users will also be able to use their EV battery to store excess energy produced by their solar array or from the grid during off-peak hours when electricity is cheap and power their homes during peak hours when electricity is most expensive. This is exactly what many people do with Tesla Powerwalls and other stationary energy storage systems.
Promising, but we still have questions
We asked Wallbox to give us a list of EVs available today that will work with Blackout Mode and the answer was vague: "We are targeting broad compatibility with upcoming bidirectional capable vehicles". Therefore, we really don't know how useful Quasar 2's V2H feature will be - initially, at least
We also don't have any pricing details. Considering the original Quasar cost $4,000 two years ago, we expect the 2nd generation to be at least the same price. That's really expensive for an 11.5 kW home charging station.
However, it's not unreasonable if you can use the Quasar 2 with your EV to perform V2H duties and power your home during a power outage. But you'll still need to purchase another piece of equipment to automatically disconnect your home from the grid first, and we don't have any information on how much that equipment will cost to purchase and install. Still, the system should cost much less than a Powerwall, or comparable home energy storage system.
We're hoping to get a hands-on demonstration as well as a loaner unit to review and Wallbox has promised to make that happen as soon as it's possible.
Let us know what you think about the Quasar 2 in the comment section below. Assuming you can get one and the necessary automatic transfer switch hardware installed for $5,000 to $6,000 total, would you be interested?