By Huw Evans

General Motors and its OnStar division are teaming up to monitor real world charging and driving among EV motorists in a unique residential setting known as Pecan Street.

Part of a 700-acre development in Austin, Texas, known as the Muller community, Pecan Street inhabitants are volunteers who offered to be part of a sustainable residential project, living in houses designed to be the last word in efficiency, sporting features such as rooftop mounted solar collectors.

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.

Last year, Chevrolet provided 100 residents of Pecan Street with assistance in acquiring Chevrolet Volts to drive, while other companies, such as Intel, Oncor, Sony and Whirlpool are also providing smart grid and clean energy appliances and equipment for the homes involved in the experiment.

As for the Volts, the Pecan Street program Q&A page says, "For residents who purchase a Chevrolet Volt, Pecan Street will provide a rebate of $7,500," and, "For residents who lease a Chevrolet Volt for three years or more, Pecan Street will provide a rebate of $3,000."

The Volts represent the largest concentration of EVs in a single location in the U.S., and researchers are therefore eager to see how the families operating these cars interact with the smart grid and other sustainable technologies within their homes on a daily basis.


By partnering with each other on the project, GM and OnStar will enable on-site researchers from the automaker and others from the Environmental Defense Fund, National Renewal Energy Laboratory and University of Texas to study the impact the Volts have on home energy consumption as well as monitoring the habits of vehicle usage and charging among residents of Pecan Street.

“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.”

According to Nick Pudar; OnStar’s vice president of Strategy and Business Development, the partnership with GM “provides us with a unique opportunity to observe charging details with many real customers in a concentrated setting,” as well as discovering “the direct impact the Volt has on the grid and how to get drivers the lowest-possible charging rates.” He also said “[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 tests slated for the GM/OnStar research program, will be to marry data gathered from home consumption with the Volt’s vehicle consumption in order to optimize entire home energy costs for each household. “We’re excited to leverage our Smart Grid APIs with other partners in this project,” Pudar said.