GM to Launch Smart Grid Pilot Program for Charging EVs

General Motors and OnStar will a pilot of smart grid solutions for electric vehicles this year, paving the way for utilities to increase energy-efficiency and offer lower charging costs to customers.

Starting this quarter, hundreds of employees of regional utilities will drive leased Chevrolet Volts as their everyday vehicles and participate in the pilot.

"In contrast to other OEMs who are only talking about smart grid technology, we're moving beyond research and development projects to a program in the real world," said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development. "Through this pilot we will see real-time results on how intelligent energy management can maximize EV charging efficiency and minimize the electric bill for EV drivers." 

Many utility companies throughout the United States have implemented programs where customers opt-in to allow the utility to stop and start their home air conditioning units as needed when electricity demand is high. The customer benefit from this service is a lower electricity bill.  OnStar's smart grid solution builds on this concept, but to a much more advanced and sophisticated level.

Through the OnStar Advanced Telematics Operations Management System (ATOMS), a utility will be able to accurately monitor and manage the energy the vehicles use. The data will give the utility deep insight into where and when EVs are charged and demand response, which allows the utility to reduce peak demand by shifting EV charging to non-peak hours.

"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," Pudar said.

Through OnStar's ATOMS infrastructure and partners' solutions, utilities will be able to implement two Smart Grid services:

  • Data Gathering. With customer permission, OnStar will provide the utility with overall charge level as well as charging history – by time and location – for the Volt pilot fleet, without the vehicles having to connect to a charging station. This will give the utility better insight for forecasting demand, setting rates and determining the best location for charging infrastructure.
  • Demand response. OnStar will allow the utility to actively manage EV charging for those who opt in to 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.


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