Chevrolet is now working with both General Electric and ABB's labs on projects to improve ownership of the Volt and sustainable solutions for its afterlife. G.E is working to understand the communications between electric vehicles and the grid, while ABB has discovered a use for the Volt's battery after its 10 year life span.
GM's pilot project with General Electric and other regional power companies aims at using GE technology to collect information associated with energy consumption and charging times through the grid. This research could potentially lead to even better technology when it comes to charging EVs. Due to the partnership, the Chevy Volt has been designated as the guinea pig for testing during the project.
Last year GE pledged to buy 25,000 plug-in hybrids and purely electric cars for its nationwide fleet of 30,000 company vehicles. GE will lease 12,000 Chevrolet Volts to hundreds of electric company employees, who are to drive them as their everyday vehicle. During the lease period, GM's OnStar division will utilize GE technology to research the communication between the Volt and the grid, allowing GE to monitor energy used by the vehicles and deliver data regarding where and when the cars plug in to power companies.
"In contrast to (auto companies) 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's 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."
At GE's facility in Plainville, Connecticut, five Chevy Volts can already be seen charging in the parking-lot Solar Carport. The solar station can fully charge 13 vehicles a day without tapping grid power. When the station is not charging EVs, it generations electricity for used in the GE building and also sends power back to the grid.
The charging station at Plainville is not equipped with chargers available on the retail market. However, GE recently announced it will begin selling a wall-mounted version of its new 240-volt WattStation later this summer at Lowe's Home Improvement store.
The battery in a Chevrolet Volt has a lifespan of 10 years. One of the most commonly asked questions about the Chevy Volt is what happens to the battery once it has reached depletion. Chevrolet realized that sending the battery to landfills or a recycler would be a waste, so they teamed up with ABB's labs in Raleigh, N.C to come up with a solution.
After 10 years of vehicle life, there will still be 70 percent of battery power left, meaning the batteries can still be used in some way although they are not suitable for vehicle use. In the future, old Chevy Volt batteries will be used to store electricity from the grid that can be used during peak demand or power outages. Storing the power will ultimately save both the utility companies and customers money. Just 33 used Volt batteries could provide enough storage capacity to power 50 homes during a four-hour long power outage.
These storage battery grids will not be in full production until at least 2020 with the first generation of Volts are off the road. Nevertheless, the companies are still working to implement multiple test system by the end of next year to collect data.
Through smart partnerships with major companies, Chevrolet will revolutionize the way consumers use electric vehicles both during and after the life of the car. Only time will tell what Chevy will dream up next in the world of plug-in hybrids.
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