Alex Goldmark is the senior producer of Note to Self, a storytelling show about how technology is changing society. Subscribe here to get Note to Self shows delivered right to your devices. Follow him on Twitter @alexgoldmark.
Chevy Testing App to Help Volt Owners Visualize -- and Brag About -- Fuel Savings
Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 11:03 AM
Early adopters are a risk-friendly group of people. They put in a little extra effort to make new technology work for them, often before all the kinks are ironed out.
They also like to brag.
Chevy wants to harness all of these character traits with a new smartphone app. “Volt owners do like a lot of information,” said Paul Pebbles of GM's OnStar division. “These early adopters, they are very into the data.”
They also want to say: "I spent $1.50 to fill up my car yesterday," possibly with a smug eco-friendly smile aimed at an SUV-owning co-worker. Soon they will be able to.
GM's OnStar is testing out a new mobile app called EcoHub that lets Volt owners track exactly how much -- or how little -- it costs to recharge their cars. OnStar's built-in features already lets Volt owners track how many miles they drive using gas vs. electric power, kilowatt-hours consumed,and other stats. What Chevy wants to do is turn data into dollars. The company estimates it costs about $1.50 a day to power a Volt.
“I think people have a good sense how much a car costs to fill up a car with gas, but when it comes to electric there’s been a lot less visibility of the cost side of the vehicle,” Pebbles said.
A Volt costs about $39,000 -- more than twice the price of other cars. Chevy argues that the savings come over time.
EcoHub is being tested in a single neighborhood to start out, the Pecan Street Demonstration Project subdivision in Austin, Texas. It's a newly built community designed to test out smart energy grid capabilities, constructed with some funding from the Department of Energy.
The houses have more control -- and more data readily available -- over energy , consumptionand some of them are solar powered as well. So EcoHub can adapt to that data, changing when the Volt pulls in power to charge based on when there might be excess solar energy, or time it to when demand is lower.
It will then also be able to compare a Volt's energy use to other household use. "If you look at the energy consumption of a Volt it is a quarter of the average consumption of an average house," Pebbles said. "That’s less than an A/C."
And he wants people to start telling their neighbors that.
Watch a video of Paul Pebbles explaining how EcoHub works.