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GM taps OnStar to drive Volt charging

GM's OnStar launches the Web site for managing a Chevy Volt's charge from a PC or smartphone and tracking its fuel economy over time.

The application lets people manage Volt charging from a PC or smartphone.
The application lets people manage Volt charging from a PC or smartphone.

DETROIT--General Motors' OnStar subsidiary today unveiled a Web site that lets Chevy Volt drivers manage charge times and track their mileage.

The site, which can be accessed from a PC or smartphone, lets Volt drivers schedule Volt charging much the way they would program a thermostat. Over time, OnStar will let people automate more features, such as radio station settings, from the Web, said OnStar president Chris Preuss here today.

The application includes a wizard that walks the driver through battery charge scheduling. A person could choose to have the Volt charge as soon as it's plugged in or on a preset schedule. A person could also indicate that a full charge is needed by 6 a.m. and OnStar will start to charge when the cheapest electricity rates are in effect in the middle of the night, explained Nick Pudar, vice president of planning and business development at OnStar.

Initially, drivers will need to manually input their electricity rates, which may vary depending the time of day. But OnStar is working with utilities to have that information available in the application, Pudar said. For security, all communication with the vehicle is done through OnStar over the cellular network, he said.

The application provides the same monthly diagnostic check-up that the existing OnStar service provides, but it adds fuel economy to the data that's available. A driver will be able to see how many miles were done on battery power and how many were on gasoline, and get an overall efficiency rating.

The application is written so people can easily update that efficiency information, which OnStar expects to be important to Volt drivers, to update on Twitter or Facebook.

In the near future, the application will provide a history of energy consumption, Preuss said. OnStar is also looking at tying to home energy management applications, including Microsoft Hohm, which will be integrated with Ford's electric vehicles.

Other features include the ability to remotely unlock the car or set the interior temperature from the Web site or mobile application.

Access to the application will be free for the first five years. The base cost now is $199 per year.

Preuss said that the Volt features are a sign of the advanced features that OnStar plans to introduce over time. The system will provide "machine to machine telematics" in different areas, including energy management, he said.