LAS VEGAS-With its much-anticipated Chevy Volt set hitting the streets by the end of the year, General Motors is beginning to provide a more detailed (although in no way complete) picture of life with an electric car. Concentrating on the daily logistics of earning sure your electric car has enough juice to help you get from point A to point Chevy, GM and B subsidiary OnStar have recently introduced a brilliant phone application to help drivers remotely manage the charging process. The announcement came here late Tuesday with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
The OnStar Mobile application, initially available for the Apple iPhone, Blackberry Storm and Motorola Droid, will let Chevy Volt owners perform a variety of actions via their cell phones, including initiating the charging of their battery, unlocking the doors and starting the engine. Prior to the battery is fully depleted, the app will also provide Volt owners with information about their car battery’s current level of charge and how many miles they may drive.
Once the car has begun recharging, OnStar Mobile will notify owners via text message when the process is complete or alert them if the process has been interrupted (for example, if there has been an electric power outage or someone has physically unplugged the car).
Volt owners will have to be able to control charging even when they are not in the vehicle, OnStar President Walt Dorfstatter said during the CES press briefing. Which means that companies like Chevy and OnStar need to develop new methods for connecting drivers to their vehicles, he said, adding, “We believe the app will fundamentally alter the way drivers interact with their cars, advancing.”
OnStar Mobile is available for a free download to iPhone and iPod Touch devices via Apple’s App Store. Motorola Droid and Blackberry Storm users can download the app from OnStarMobileDemo.com.
Up to this aspect, GM has become relatively quiet about how it may use OnStar’s in-car communication service with the Volt. In September Britta Gross, GM’s manager of Hydrogen and Electrical Infrastructure Development, noted that electric vehicles could eventually need to be able to communicate directly with power utility companies to ensure these cars “don’t make peak loads worse than they are today,” but she said the company had not yet defined OnStar’s role in this.
Ford, on the other hand, has now assured drivers that its SYNC in-car communications product is expected to play a big role in tying electric cars in with home owners’ smart meters to figure out a battery’s power level, indicate just how long it will take to totally recharge, and schedule when the process will start. SYNC is predicted to be one of the primary topics of Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s CES keynote Thursday morning.