Nick Pudar, of Onstar, discusses how Onstar’s solution has evolved into a gateway for hybrid and electric vehicle energy management solutions.
Nick Pudar: We’ve been in this business for 15 years. We’ve been doing this for a long time, a lot of accumulated experience with our customers. We’ve had 300 million interactions with our customers, so we’re learning about the connectivity. We’re really good at that stuff. Now, we’re in 6 million vehicles right now with our customer base, and as new vehicles like this Chevy Volt are coming to the marketplace, the opportunity to leverage the connectivity that we have in this vehicle to do new things on energy management, it can become quite exciting. So we’re here at the utility conference to really do some demonstrations with some companies to explore the possibilities and to really learn and leverage what this connectivity can do. So it’s not just about the life-saving things we do all the time, which is very important, but it’s also about learning more about energy efficiency, energy management, control of the load that the vehicle places on the grid, a lot more smart grid integration activities. There’s a lot of stuff that’s possible, and we’re in this exploration mode to really test the waters.
Let me start with a very simple thing. One of the things that we did when this vehicle was announced, that’s the Chevy Volt, we introduced the Smartphone application that’s available on iPhones and Android phones, and one of the nice little features there is a notification service, which says that… I can set the time, so for me, when I drove a Volt at 10 PM every night, if my car’s not plugged in, the car is going to send me a text message to remind me. So it’s a nice sort of peace of mind with a little simple service that’s kind of cute, but it actually saved me several times, where I had actually forgot to plug my vehicle in. The car reminded me. It cared enough about me to remind me to plug it in. But now, as we look at more sophisticated things that are possible, there’s a lot of concern in this space as people buy more of these electric vehicles, we’re going to be overvolting the grid and overloading the circuit. Well, the car, when it’s connected, can actually provide information about its level of load and we can set up parameters so the car can wait until some off-peak times to provide that load. We can also enter in utility time-of-use rates, and so as utilities begin to generate new rate plans for electric vehicle usage, the vehicle is ready for that today, you can plug the vehicle into the console. But we can also do that through the web, through Smartphones, through other portals, where you can have, through the secure connection that Onstar provides to the vehicle, the other parties to have access with your permission, and you will benefit economically because of the rate plan adjustment. You’re going to use less energy.
So, as people begin to manage their energy in their homes, the vehicle is part of the home when it’s plugged in and when it’s parked there. But the vehicle is a part of your home life, no matter where it is, and so to be able to manage your overall home energy is another opportunity to really take advantage of this kind of connectivity. And if you look and try to speculate into the future about what’s really possible, this is a mobile vehicle, of course, and so if I come visit you at your house and I want to plug in, you shouldn’t have to pay for that. My car should be smart enough to know that it’s consuming energy. It knows where it is, so if it’s consuming from your account, I have to credit you that in your account. So this notion, just like in the old days where we had roaming with cell phones, well, there’s going to be a roaming charging that vehicles that are connected in a smart way to the smart grid are going to be able to create. As we start thinking even deeper into the future about the possibilities, when I turn the car on at night on a weekday, you can pretty safely bet that I’m headed home. Well, as the vehicle, through pattern recognition, can begin to infer the person’s intentions. So if you think about this thing called intent management. We can actually work the utility that, here’s a car, it’s going to be home in 40 minutes, with this much load, if the car’s set up in immediate charge mode, you know what, you’re going to have this much of a load on the system on this particular transformer. And so the ability to have predictive load management is something that in history, hasn’t had before. We’ve done historical stuff, but we’ve never been able to actually say, “Here and now, this is what’s going to happen.” So a lot of possibilities to leverage this connectivity.
We are absolutely coming at it from an open source approach and from this standpoint. This vehicle has connectivity, that through the Onstar connection, is done at a safe, secure, private, locked-down manner that we’ve been doing this for a long time, we know how to do it right. But we’re certain about one thing, is that there are lots of solutions that are going to be out there, lots of problems that we haven’t even conceived of yet, and there are going to be some very innovative approaches to this. So what we’re working on is a set of APIs that will link to that vehicle in a secure way that we can work for third parties so that these intelligent solutions will become broadly accessible. Because as more and more vehicles have this kind of propulsion technology solutions built into it, they’re going to be ready for the smart grid. As the smart grid evolves, we don’t want to have to come up with brand-new solutions for every single thing. We want to have one common open standard set of APIs that companies can work with, link to the vehicle, and really do some wonderful things for the overall grid pre-management.
The overall value creation, utilities are going to benefit from this capability because of load management, capacity management. The consumers are going to benefit from lower cost of energy charging. Society is going to benefit because of the overall effect of how the grid is managed, and so that value that’s created will also get shared somehow amongst the stakeholders and the constituents, and how that value sharing is going to play itself out over time, we don’t know the answers. I think we’re poised in the right way to handle the secure connections of the vehicle in a professional responsible way, and we’re excited about the possibilities.
The fact that this vehicle is ready for the smart grid, in advance of the smart grid being fully in effect, we see the connectivity that we’re already part of playing an important role in driving future innovations. I’ve actually had the privilege of driving one of the early production of this for several months, it’s changed the way I think about energy management, it’s changed the way I want to interact with the vehicle. This connectivity that we have, a lot possibilities and it’s pretty exciting.