OnStar to help Volt drivers choose renewable energy

Even if they haven't installed a solar array in their backyard, Volt drivers could choose to recharge their plug-in hybrid with renewable energy.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff

Even if they haven't installed a solar array in their backyard, a new OnStar program lets Volt drivers recharge their plug-in hybrids with renewable energy.

OnStar is working with electric power systems operator PJM Interconnection to develop technology that could give drivers a choice of the type of electricity used to recharge their Volt. The new system would let drivers establish a renewable energy preference for the Volt and help them use renewably generated electricity to recharge their cars.

PJM monitors the percentage of renewable energy available on the electrical grid, and uploads the forecast to OnStar's cloud. OnStar can monitor the charging of plugged-in Volts online and ensure that vehicles owned by drivers that prefer renewable energy can be recharged from those resources.

Only about 8 percent of the nation's electricity comes from renewable resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association, and most wind energy is generated at night. The Volt app could add a feature that alerts owners when renewable energy is available and encourage them to plug into the grid or schedule the recharge during peak wind or solar energy generation times. If there's a lot of demand for green energy, power companies could be encouraged to switch to clean sources of electricity.

Google is testing OnStar's latest smart grid technology with its fleet of 17 Chevrolet Volts in Mountain View, Calif. IBM is developing similar technology in Switzerland.