Luxury car brand Rolls Royce, yet to make significant strides towards electrification of its vehicles, has nonetheless made an investment in the clean and distributed energy sectors, acquiring a stake in a microgrid solutions developer.

Berlin-headquartered start-up Qinous develops, manufactures and integrates battery energy storage into microgrids, many of which are in the developing world. The company has already executed around 30 such projects to date, including ‘plug ‘n play’ self-contained energy storage systems that scale up from 30kW into several megawatts capacity which Qinous said are pre-installed and factory-tested so that they can be rolled out and used straight away.

While some distributed energy solutions providers to emerging markets focus solely on basics such as lighting and phone charger equipment, Qinous founder, manager and head of business development Busso Von Bismarck told Energy-Storage.news in June 2017 that microgrids should enable “full, productive use” of electricity, including for industrial and commercial applications. By that point Qinous had already delivered close to 10MWh of systems.

Rolls Royce Holdings, manufacturer of power systems and parent company to Rolls Royce Motors, has joined as a strategic investor, while the car company said Qinous has already been using Rolls Royce-made engine gensets, the MTU Onsite Energy range, in some of its projects. A statement from Rolls Royce talked up the potential of so-called “autonomous electricity networks” (microgrids) and their ability to combine different resources including diesel, gas, renewables and batteries with control systems.

“As a strategic investor, the aim is to set up a partnership with Qinous for the development of innovative energy storage solutions and together offer cleaner solutions designed to meet tomorrow’s needs. We are looking forward to working with Qinous and see this partnership as yet another milestone as we expand our activities in this business segment,” Rolls Royce Power Systems CFO and labour director Marcus A. Wassenburg said.

Rolls Royce Power Systems CEO Andreas Schell said that his customers had expressed greater interest in “autonomous energy supply systems that are efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly”, hence the addition of “turnkey microgrids to our portfolio” with the Qinous investment.   

“…we will now offer battery containers, include renewable power generation plants, and combine that with intelligent control,” Schell said.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed but the carmaker said the investment will expand the existing product portfolio and strengthen global sales and marketing activities. Rolls Royce is building a microgrid demonstration project in southern Germany at present, which Andreas Schell said will help potential customers understand their own projects’ needs.

At the beginning of this year, major European energy company Engie acquired a majority stake in France’s Electro Power Systems (EPS), another developer of microgrids, at €9.50 per share to buy “just over” 50% of EPS. 

Earlier this year, Rolls Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Otvös reportedly told UK publication Autocar that the luxury brand will ‘skip’ hybrid vehicles and pursue full electrification – but said it would be a “long, long time” before electric drivetrains replace internal combustion engines. Another UK publication, the Financial Times, said the company is introducing its first EV within 10 years, with the CEO hinting at full electrification by 2040 and saying that Rolls Royce will continue to sell 12-cylinder engines “as long as it is legally allowed to offer them” on other reported remarks.  

This article has been amended to clarify that Rolls Royce Holdings and Rolls Royce Motors operate as separate entities.

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