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GM gets smart on Volt charging

New charge: OnStar claims to be the lone telematics provider able to create a wireless bridge between electric vehicles and the grid.

World-first pilot of smart charging set to roll on Chevrolet Volt fleet in US

General Motors logo20 Jul 2011

GENERAL Motors is about to embark on a world-first trial of smart-grid electric car charging in real-world conditions, using its OnStar telematics system to control the connection of hundreds of Chevrolet Volts to power companies to manage the flow of electricity.

Starting in the next few weeks, the system will use mobile phone technology to allow the electricity suppliers to monitor charging of the Volt’s lithium-ion batteries and – with the permission of the owners – potentially adjust the flow of electricity according to demand on the grid.

Smart charging is seen as an essential step towards automotive electrification, managing peak load on the grid and increasing energy efficiency. Drivers will get a reduced electricity tariff in return for allowing their cars to be monitored by the power company.

GM says the pilot program will involve employees of regional utility companies, with vital data being collected on vehicle use and charging patterns ahead of a potential wider roll-out of the system.

With customer permission, the overall charge levels of each Volt, as well as charging history – by time and location – will be provided via OnStar to the utility company without the vehicle having to be connected to a charging station.

 center imageLeft: Chevrolet Volt.

GM says this will help the electricity company forecast demand, set rates and determine the best locations for charging infrastructure.

The utility will also be able to actively manage EV charging for those who opt into the service. The utility can then reduce peak loads by offering discounts or other incentives to encourage drivers to charge their EVs when overall electricity demand is lowest, typically in the early morning hours.

OnStar vice president of planning and business development Nick Pudar said: “Through this pilot we will see real-time results on how intelligent energy management can maximise EV charging efficiency and minimise the electric bill for EV drivers.

“OnStar is the only telematics provider that can create a wireless bridge between electric vehicles and the grid, building on our learning from the Chevrolet Volts on the road today.”

Under regular operation, OnStar – available on 30 GM models in North America –provides a suite of services including satellite navigation, vehicle security, breakdown assistance and emergency assistance.

Holden offers OnStar-style services through its optional Holden Assist service for its Commodore, Calais and Caprice.

Among the services supplied via a 24-hour control centre are an automatic alert for emergency services if the airbags deploy, the ability to disable a stolen car remotely, unlocking the doors remotely and even helping owners to find their car in a car park by remotely activating the lights and horn.

OnStar first demonstrated EV data gathering and demand response in February at the DistribuTECH conference in San Diego. The Chevrolet Volt is now available in select US markets and will be available nationwide by the end of the year before going on sale in Australia with Holden badges in 2012.

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