Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

GM Volt to Allow Smart Charging

The plug-in hybrid could communicate with utilities to optimize power use.

  • April 2, 2009

In a conference call on Thursday, GM hinted that it will be implementing a system that will allow two-way communication between the Chevrolet Volt’s battery charger and electric utility companies.

Credit: GM

One of the big potential problems with plug-in hybrid vehicles (cars that can be recharged by plugging them into a wall socket) is that if they’re ever widespread, and people plug them in all at the same time, it could overload the electricity grid.

But with the right equipment, plug-ins could actually be good for the grid. If the chargers had timers that put off charging until the wee hours of the night, the cars could make use of excess power-generating capacity on the grid. If the cars could communicate with each other, they could automatically stagger their charging, spreading out the load. And if they could communicate with utilities, they could charge when the utilities have extra power and stop charging if demand gets too high, helping to smooth out demand and prevent blackouts. There’s even a plan eventually to allow cars to deliver power back to the grid to help with peaks in electricity demand. Such smart charging could make it possible to incorporate more renewable energy, by helping to make up for the variable nature of wind and solar power.

Tony Posawatz, the vehicle line director for the Chevrolet Volt, confirmed that the Volt due out in November 2010 can be programmed by owners to charge at different times. The other stuff will require more complicated equipment. Without going into details, Posawatz said that GM’s OnStar system can allow for communications, making other equipment, such as smart electricity meters, unnecessary. At this point, it’s not clear what exactly the OnStar system will allow, or what will be available with the first version of the Volt, but Posawatz said that case studies are being conducted, and he suggested, by way of a rhetorical question, that the system could communicate with utilities. That could allow for much of the smart charging that could help stabilize the grid. The possibility of cars delivering power back to the grid, however, will have to wait, he said.

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.