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GM OnStar partners with TimberRock for demo of EV solar charging and market-based regulation; OnStar Demand Response service

The OnStar-TimberRock project. Click to enlarge.

GM’s OnStar announced a project with TimberRock Energy Solutions, Inc. that uses aggregation software and solar charging canopies with integrated storage to manage the flow of solar power to benefit the electric grid. It will be the first “real-world” use of OnStar’s Smart Grid solutions. (Earlier post.)

TimberRock will monitor the output of its solar charging stations, how much stored energy is available and when it can sell energy back to the grid to help meet peak demand. To help balance this system, TimberRock will then manage its fleet of four Chevrolet Volts to help regulate energy flow. This practice is known as market-based regulation.

The future of electric vehicle charging will be a marriage of renewable energy and battery storage as we look to address the intermittency of renewable solar and wind power. This project supports GM’s goal of using all factors of the charging equation: electric vehicles, solar power, and battery storage.

—Rob Threlkeld, General Motors’ manager of renewable energy

The ability to control the Volts’ charging using software algorithms is made possible by an OnStar solution called Demand Response, accessed through OnStar’s Smart Grid application programming interface (API).

OnStar has given TimberRock access to the API so that it can start, stop and modulate the amount of charge going to a particular Volt in coordination with energy need. TimberRock’s software determines when the EVs can be used to support the grid.

We have given TimberRock the ability to use Demand Response to efficiently control the charging of their fleet of Volts. This is the first time a demonstration of Demand Response is being taken beyond lab or university studies.

—Paul Pebbles, GM global manager, Smart Grid and EV Services

Pebbles envisions a day where, if consumers choose to participate, they could receive financial benefits for allowing a company to manage the charging of their EVs.

Down the line, this could really incentivize solar charging for EV drivers. This opens the door for solutions like this to be brought to the public, which could increase the benefits of owning an electric vehicle. Whether it’s charging with solar or wind energy, or even standard electricity, consumers will start to see that they have options when it comes to managing their EVs.

—Paul Pebbles

Other OnStar Smart Grid APIs support services including:

  • Time-of-Use (TOU) rates. OnStar can receive dynamic TOU pricing from utilities and notify Volt owners of the rate plan offers via email. Owners will be able to use OnStar to load the rate plans directly into their vehicle and access them to schedule charging during lower-rate periods.

  • Charging data. OnStar also sends and receives EV data that helps utility providers without having to interface with the vehicle’s electric vehicle supply equipment. This includes location-based EV data that identifies charging locations and determines potential load scenarios.

  • Aggregated services. This solution allows electric service providers to manage the charging of participating vehicles in a given geographic area, with customer consent. This includes the ability to control charging on a large amount of EVs simultaneously. OnStar showcased these capabilities on Google’s “Gfleet”, where a Volt would receive a renewable energy signal provided by an energy management company, opening up the potential to alert EV customers when renewable energy is available on the grid for charging.


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