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GM and OnStar sign on as official Pecan Street partners; studying EV services and smart grid interaction

OnStar and General Motors are partnering in the Pecan Street Inc.’s smart grid research project in Austin’s Mueller community, the Pecan Street Demonstration. Headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, Pecan Street Inc. is a research and development organization focused on developing and testing advanced technology, business model and customer behavior surrounding advanced energy management systems.

Chevrolet made 100 Chevrolet Volts available for purchase on a priority basis last September to residents participating the Pecan Street Inc.’s demonstration project, which now has the nation’s highest residential concentration of electric-drive vehicles in place. OnStar and GM are now signing on as an official partner of Pecan Street Inc., to help shape future electric vehicle services.

Pecan Street provided an additional rebate of $7,500 for the purchase of a Volt and a $3,000 rebate for residents who leased a Chevrolet Volt for three years or more. Pecan Street also offered a limited number of rebates for the Nissan Leaf and Prius PHV.

The Mueller Community
When Austin closed the Mueller municipal airport in 1999, community leaders committed to redeveloping the site into a ground-breaking mix-used, sustainable urban neighborhood. Attributes include:
  • 700 acres
  • World’s largest LEED-ND certified community (2009)
  • Three miles from downtown
  • More than 4,900 planned homes
  • 4.5M sq. ft. planned office and retail
  • Ultra green-built
  • Reclaimed water system
  • Carbon-sequestering landscaping
  • 25% affordable housing

Pecan Street is part of Austin’s 700-acre sustainable Mueller community, where residents agreed to be part of a test bed for sustainable living. Other partner companies such as Sony, Whirlpool, Oncor and Intel provided Mueller residents with forward-looking smart grid and clean energy products and services.

Supported by a $10.4 million smart grid demonstration grant from the Department of Energy (and more than $14 million in matching funds from project partners), researchers from the University of Texas, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Environmental Defense Fund will study these products and systems to learn how they interact with the grid. Over five years, researchers will test up to 1,000 residences in and around the Mueller community.

We hope Pecan Street’s research will speed up the innovation cycle around smart grid and consumer electronic technology. Electric vehicles represent a significant addition to home’s energy profile and understanding that impact and how consumers use and charge their vehicles is critically important.

—Pecan Street Inc. Executive Director Brewster McCracken

GM and OnStar’s official partnership allows researchers from Pecan Street and GM to study how these families’ Volts interact with the smart grid on a daily basis and how they interact with other sustainable technologies.

This partnership provides us with a unique opportunity to observe charging details with many real customers in a concentrated setting. We are moving our lab demonstrations into the real world. We’re gathering information from families’ vehicles throughout this community to find out the direct impact the Volt has on the grid and how to get drivers the lowest-possible charging rates. This project will also help us develop future capabilities of the Volt and other plug-in electric vehicles.

—Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president, Strategy and Business Development

OnStar, which recently opened its Smart Grid APIs for utilities and energy companies (earlier post), has already developed a number of grid-relieving solutions, including charging with renewable energy, energy demand response, time-of-use-rates, and home energy management. The partnership with Pecan Street will allow OnStar to test these smart grid services in everyday scenarios.

One of the first demonstrations we will test will be to marry home energy consumption data and the Volt’s vehicle consumption to optimize whole-home energy cost and efficiency. We’re also excited to leverage our Smart Grid APIs with other partners in this project.

—Nick Pudar

More than a third of the homes in Mueller have rooftop solar collectors, and Pecan Street will evaluate how solar and electric vehicle charging interact. This will allow customers a new, cost-effective way to generate energy, potentially powering their Volts at low or no cost while relieving some of the burden from the electric grid.



Wasn't it Peanut Street?

Christopher Miles

This is a great project/showpiece for GM's Volt technology and it's OnStar telematics technology.

On Star and the smart grid. Interesting.

It's critical we get the data on how these cars are used, when they are charged, the hit the grid takes (if any) when charging, and how much energy is used vis a vis the solar that some of the homes in this development have on the rooftop.

PR? Sure. But also some promise there. If nothing else- this community is in TEXAS- not known for weenine/treehugging stuff- so if things like this work there and solutions seem practical and doable- then they are all the more easy to replicate in other areas of the country.

Kudos to all that have worked to move the the Pecan Street Project forward.

C Miles

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