With the slogan "Keep Austin Weird," the Texas capital has long prided itself on thinking a little different than the rest of the state, let alone the country.

That's why General Motors and its OnStar vehicle-navigation system decided to work with residents in one of the city's residential communities to test how Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-ins are used on a regular basis.

The community, called Pecan Street, is part of the 700-acre Mueller Community that's geared towards more sustainable living. The community is also working with companies like Sony, Whirlpool and Intel on testing products in an effort to consume less energy.

As for the Volts, about 100 of them were made available to Pecan Street residents "on a priority basis" last September before the program started. The way the residents use their Volts will be part of an effort to gauge smart grid use, among other things. GM says Austin has the highest residential concentration of electric vehicles out of any city in the U.S. That sound you hear is a bunch of people in San Francisco getting mad.
Show full PR text
OnStar Officially Joins Community of Tomorrow
Seeking to learn how Chevy Volt owners operate in sustainable community
2012-07-24

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – OnStar and General Motors are partnering in a sustainable residential community demonstration to gain access to real-world driving and charging patterns of the largest community of concentrated Chevrolet Volt owners who also live in managed energy "smart homes."

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

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 like Sony, Whirlpool, Oncor and Intel provided Mueller residents with forward-looking smart grid and clean energy products and services.

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," said Pecan Street Inc. Executive Director Brewster McCracken. "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."

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," said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president, Strategy and Business Development.

"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."

OnStar, which recently opened its Smart Grid APIs for utilities and energy companies, 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," said Pudar. "We're also excited to leverage our Smart Grid APIs with other partners in this project."

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.

About OnStar

OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the global leading provider of connected safety, security and mobility solutions and advanced information technology. With more than 6 million subscribers in the U.S, Canada and China, OnStar is currently available on more than 45 MY 2012 GM models, as well as available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road with OnStar FMV. More information about OnStar can be found at www.onstar.com.

About Pecan Street Inc.

Headquartered at the University of Texas at Austin, Pecan Street Inc. is the country's first non-profit research and development consortia focused on energy, wireless and consumer electronics technology. Its demonstration project in Austin's Mueller community is testing cutting edge energy and consumer products, including rooftop solar, home energy storage and electric vehicles, in real homes, with real customers on a real electrical grid. Learn more at www.pecanstreet.org.