OnStar Energy Management System Explained

The arrival of the electric vehicle onto the market at the end of last year has left most of the unsuspecting consumers in the dark when it comes to the hows and whys of electric vehicle charging, electricity costs and connectivity. Most of the auto makers now selling electric vehicles, especially GM and Nissan, have partnered with different charging solutions providers to develop the best ways to charge a vehicle and keep the owner in the loop with everything that goes on with his car at the same time. Unlike Nissan, however, GM has a tiny advantage called OnStar. Already present in the vast majority of the models the car maker produces, OnStar has the advantage, compared to Nissan's CARWINGS Connect, of being notoriously efficient. Trying to tap into a segment of the market that will surely expand exponentially in the years to come, OnStar announced in the beginning of February that it is working on an energy management system for EVs, which would allow owners and utilities to charge, keep informed and save money at the same time. PRINCIPLES
The OnStar energy management system is the closest thing the automotive world has to a smart grid technology. Its utilization will allow it to provide the owners of the EVs and the utility companies with valuable information that would turn the charging process into an effective, headache-free experience.

The system has not officially been launched, with OnStar currently testing it using the Volt PHEVs. And yet, the main features of the system, as well as the benefits they are hoped to bring have already been defined by the infotainment solutions provider.

Demand response
– the OnStar system provides valuable information for utility companies through this feature. It will be used to connect the utilities which have intelligent energy management products; with it, they will monitor as well as manage the energy usage of those customers who will be using the system. Its benefits expand far beyond lower charging rates for customers; demand response can be used by utilities to more efficiently use the grid.

Time-of-Use (TOU) rates
– one of the most important aspect of owning an EV for customers will be the rates utilities will charge for the electricity they will be providing. By using OnStar's TOU, any customer will be notified, via email, of the pricing charged by several utilities. Aside for the fact that this system will give the owner the choice between a given electricity supplier or another, it also comes with another neat feature: it allows owners to upload rate plans into the Volt, so that it will begin charging at the exact time when the owner tells it to – that is when the rates are at their lowest.

Data gathering – to be used by utilities, this feature will allow them to keep track of the charging stations they supply. At the same time, companies will be able to run different load scenarios (allowing utilities, for instance, to determine how many Volts are using the same transformer and take the appropriate decision). Utilities, as well as OnStar, will be aware of how much a Volt is charging, as well as for how long, regardless of its location.

Vehicle-to-Home Integration Technology – perhaps one of the most important aspects of the OnStar energy management system is the Vehicle-to-Home Integration Technology. Doing exactly what its name says (connecting the vehicle to the home you live in), it will give Volt owners a far better control over the Volt, the charger and the overall energy management.


As said, the OnStar system is not exactly on the market yet, and it will probably not be in the near future. Using funds provided by the US Department of Energy, OnStar will be testing the system in the coming year together with DistribuTECH. Probably, the system will be in-place and fully operational in under five years, or about the same amount of time it will take for the second generation Volt to get here.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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