Ahead of its first new electric-vehicle launch, GM's OnStar division announces apps to help drivers plan trips and charge their vehicles.
Wayne CunninghamManaging Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
With current technology, GM can't give its upcoming Spark EV more range, but its OnStar division is giving drivers the tools to deal with limited driving range. A new feature of OnStar's RemoteLink Mobile app will let drivers plan trips based on charging-station availability along a route.
Volt owners use the RemoteLink Mobile app to program charging times remotely. OnStar will add the new Waypoint tab in anticipation of next year's launch of the Spark EV. When a driver enters a destination, the Waypoint feature will plot a route incorporating necessary charging-station stops.
Given that the Spark EV is expected to have a range of under 100 miles, consistent with the majority of new electric cars on the market, the Waypoint feature will have to add significant time to longer trips for charging. However, it is a means of showing drivers what destination are reasonable.
Tap to pay
OnStar also announced a separate app designed to make paying for charging easier. Named Park-Tap-Charge, this app takes advantage of the Near Field Communications technology available on some phones to expedite payment for charging.
Per the app's name, a driver would park an electric vehicle at a charging station, plug it in, then tap the smartphone against the charger. The app and charging network would automatically negotiate payment.
For this second app to work, charging networks will have to incorporate the technology to communicate with smartphones. However, mobile carriers are likely to be on board with this and other smartphone payment schemes, which gives them a foothold in the payment cycle.
We expect to see the Chevy Spark EV at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show in two weeks. GM plans to begin production of the car next year.