General Motors Corp. is bringing its OnStar-enabled smart grid solutions, to one of the largest electric vehicle collaborations to take place within the industry. Eight global automakers, including GM, and 15 electric utilities are working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to develop and implement a standardized smart grid integration platform.
The global automakers participating in this program are: American Honda Motor Co., Honda R&D Americas, Inc., BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co., GM, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc., Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. The utilities involved are DTE Energy, Duke Energy, PJM Interconnection LLC, CenterPoint Energy, Inc., Southern Company, Northeast Utilities, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, Commonwealth Edison, TVA, Manitoba Hydro, Austin Energy, ConEd and CPS Energy.
The goal of this program is to develop a cloud-based, central server that would receive grid requests from a utility like demand response and then translate and standardize that request so it could be relayed to all appropriate plug-in vehicles in the designated area. Automakers would be expected to develop and deploy technologies compatible with these smart grid communications. GM has been working with companies like TimberRock Energy Solutions, Inc. to research, test and develop potential real-world solutions like Demand Response.
"One thing that's missing from most Smart Grid programs is a sense of collaboration," said Tim Nixon, chief technology officer, Global Connected Consumer, GM. "Companies will showcase a meaningful solution, but without widespread acceptance in the industry, its usability is limited. That's what makes this partnership unique."
GM currently offers extended range electric vehicles the Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR as well as the all-electric Chevrolet Spark EV. The plug-in electric vehicle market in the U.S. has grown to more than 225,000 vehicles including more than 63,000 Chevrolet Volts, the best-selling plug-in vehicle in the U.S. since launch in 2010.
"As electric vehicles become more prevalent in the marketplace, it will present some unique challenges and opportunities for utilities who manage the flow of the electric grid," said Dan Bowermaster, EPRI manager of Electric Transportation. "The focus of this collaboration is to create a standard program that will allow utilities to work with different types of plug-in vehicles to more efficiently manage their demand on the grid."
For the first phase of the program, EPRI and the participating companies will work to develop a standardized Demand Response solution. Demand Response is the signal a utility sends to an energy management company communicating the supply and demand needs to the electric grid. That company then communicates with designated plug-in vehicles in the area to manage their energy consumption in accordance with the grid's needs.
"If such a service were ever to be implemented for consumers that opt-in to it, they could receive a financial benefit or other incentive for allowing their vehicle charging to be managed," said Nixon. "This would also allow utilities to help reduce stress on the grid and costs to all utility customers."