With the slogan "Keep Austin Weird," the Texas capital has long prided itself on thinking a little different than the rest of the state, let alone the country.

That's why General Motors and its OnStar vehicle-navigation system decided to work with residents in one of the city's residential communities to test how Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-ins are used on a regular basis.

The community, called Pecan Street, is part of the 700-acre Mueller Community that's geared towards more sustainable living. The community is also working with companies like Sony, Whirlpool and Intel on testing products in an effort to consume less energy.

As for the Volts, about 100 of them were made available to Pecan Street residents "on a priority basis" last September before the program started. The way the residents use their Volts will be part of an effort to gauge smart grid use, among other things. GM says Austin has the highest residential concentration of electric vehicles out of any city in the U.S. That sound you hear is a bunch of people in San Francisco getting mad.
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OnStar Officially Joins Community of Tomorrow
Seeking to learn how Chevy Volt owners operate in sustainable community
2012-07-24

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – OnStar and General Motors are partnering in a sustainable residential community demonstration to gain access to real-world driving and charging patterns of the largest community of concentrated Chevrolet Volt owners who also live in managed energy "smart homes."

Chevrolet made 100 Volts available for purchase on a priority basis last September to residents participating in Pecan Street Inc.'s demonstration project in Austin, Texas. With the nation's highest residential concentration of electric vehicles in place, OnStar and GM are signing on as an official partner of Pecan Street Inc., to help shape future electric vehicle services.

Pecan Street is part of Austin's 700-acre sustainable Mueller community, where residents agreed to be part of a test bed for sustainable living. Other partner companies like Sony, Whirlpool, Oncor and Intel provided Mueller residents with forward-looking smart grid and clean energy products and services.

Researchers from the University of Texas, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Environmental Defense Fund will study these products and systems to learn how they interact with the grid. Over five years, researchers will test up to 1,000 residences in and around the Mueller community.

"We hope Pecan Street's research will speed up the innovation cycle around smart grid and consumer electronic technology," said Pecan Street Inc. Executive Director Brewster McCracken. "Electric vehicles represent a significant addition to home's energy profile and understanding that impact and how consumers use and charge their vehicles is critically important."

GM and OnStar's official partnership allows researchers from Pecan Street and GM to study how these families' Volts interact with the smart grid on a daily basis and how they interact with other sustainable technologies.

"This partnership provides us with a unique opportunity to observe charging details with many real customers in a concentrated setting," said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president, Strategy and Business Development.

"We are moving our lab demonstrations into the real world. We're gathering information from families' vehicles throughout this community to find out the direct impact the Volt has on the grid and how to get drivers the lowest-possible charging rates. This project will also help us develop future capabilities of the Volt and other plug-in electric vehicles."

OnStar, which recently opened its Smart Grid APIs for utilities and energy companies, has already developed a number of grid-relieving solutions, including charging with renewable energy, energy demand response, time-of-use-rates, and home energy management. The partnership with Pecan Street will allow OnStar to test these smart grid services in everyday scenarios.

"One of the first demonstrations we will test will be to marry home energy consumption data and the Volt's vehicle consumption to optimize whole-home energy cost and efficiency," said Pudar. "We're also excited to leverage our Smart Grid APIs with other partners in this project."

More than a third of the homes in Mueller have rooftop solar collectors, and Pecan Street will evaluate how solar and electric vehicle charging interact. This will allow customers a new, cost-effective way to generate energy, potentially powering their Volts at low or no cost while relieving some of the burden from the electric grid.

About OnStar

OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the global leading provider of connected safety, security and mobility solutions and advanced information technology. With more than 6 million subscribers in the U.S, Canada and China, OnStar is currently available on more than 45 MY 2012 GM models, as well as available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road with OnStar FMV. More information about OnStar can be found at www.onstar.com.

About Pecan Street Inc.

Headquartered at the University of Texas at Austin, Pecan Street Inc. is the country's first non-profit research and development consortia focused on energy, wireless and consumer electronics technology. Its demonstration project in Austin's Mueller community is testing cutting edge energy and consumer products, including rooftop solar, home energy storage and electric vehicles, in real homes, with real customers on a real electrical grid. Learn more at www.pecanstreet.org.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 35 Comments
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hey Nick! Look below - did we get consoled?!
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Actually, educational programs and marketing, like this, is a good idea. People are being asked to consider cars that at least initially, are substantially more expensive than traditional cars. Getting the word out, especially on the volt, let's people know why they are good, how they save money, and the actual investment. There will certainly be a learning curve over time, so they may as well start somewhere...
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      My mean spirited parents had them installed on their house. Purely to save money, of course, and they worked quite nicely. The hot water portion didn't have a regulator on it, so the water would come out as super heated. Seeing as they moved to Florida, they had no issues with never having enough hot water.
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        EZEE Your parents are Democrats.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Nick
          :) Actually we're fairly hardcore republicans, but really did do the solar for money savings. Interestingly, the math played out that the hot water heater paid for itself the fastest.
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        whoa, what happened to Nick's comments? And my response? Nick, did we get censored?
      stumpy
      • 2 Years Ago
      "That sound you hear is a bunch of people in San Francisco getting mad" hahahahha
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @stumpy
        San Francisco isn't a real good application for EVs. You don't really need a car if you live in San Francisco since there are Muni trains, CalTrain, BART, electric buses, diesel buses, and even the cable cars. I lived there for 3 years and I just put my car in storage. The only times I used my car was to go out of the city. EVs are better for suburbs where people commute regular short distances.
          Nick
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Spec Sure, but there's still a lot of cars even in SF. Not sure how many are owned by people living within SF, but there's still a bunch.
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      Look at all those solar panels! I guess we are going to get a report about how we can replace a lot of foreign oil with free renewable energy. And it is possible.
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Spec I'd like to see homes entirely covered with solar cells.....the outside walls, roof, everything. Check this out: http://www.colorfullhome.com/eco-house-design-using-solar-power-by-technische-universitat-darmstadt/
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        meant to have my above post as a response to this one.... (hi spec)
      • 2 Years Ago
      More government funneling taxpayer money into GM. Sick 16 trillion dollars dept is not enough for some.
      boanarom
      • 2 Years Ago
      Pretty england
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      SF isn't a lot more likely to get mad about not having the highest EV concentration than NYC. Both cities are not great to drive in because they aren't laid out like sprawl like Austin is. Just look at that picture above. Complete suburban sprawl, cookie-cutter tract homes. That's not really "keepin it weird" much. SF tries to push people to public transport. I'm not saying it works perfectly, but that's the idea. If you wanted to make an unnecessarily nasty, trolling crack you probably should have picked Palo Alto to attack.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        "Complete suburban sprawl, cookie-cutter tract homes. " Like them or not, a 2000-sf home with a moderate yard is a pretty comfortable and quiet way to live, and the only way to make them "affordable" is via tract building. Living in SF or NYC is a lot tougher - those brownstones are awfully tight by comparison.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Brownstones are very large actually. SF doesn't have brownstones. SF has rowhouses, they're kind of small, but really it's the lack of parking that is the nightmare.
        Jim_NJ
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        Rotation- where is your sense of humor? I just got back from San Francisco two days ago. I lived there for over 7 years. A great city for driving, but the freeways around it not so much. I do agree that they have great public transit, which I used often, and of course could be improved in some areas. I love The City, but many of its residents are hypocrytical beyond belief. You wouldn't believe how many conversations I had with pro-environment spouting libs who claimed to care about the environment, while driving their SUVS, and wasting water and other resources. It truly was unbelievable how so many people like American excess, but claim to care about the environment. Also, these bleeding heart libs would always claim they stood up for unions, but guess what type of vehicles they buy? Almost exclusively non-union-built foreign brands. It's hard to buy a Volt in San Francisco if no one can sell you one: http://www.autoblog.com/2011/05/11/last-domestic-car-dealership-in-san-francisco-shuts-its-doors/
          Jim_NJ
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jim_NJ
          "Which non-union built foreign brands are you referring to?" Honda Accords and Civics, and Toyota Camrys. I also know several families with two, one or even zero kids, lumbering around in BMW X5s, getting less than 15 mpg. (The X5 seemed to be the upscale soccer-Mom vehicle of choice a few years ago). All of these vehicles are made in non-Union plants, and you can buy every one of them in supposedly 'I-care-about-the-working-class' San Francisco. You want to buy a Union-built Chevy, Ford, or Chrysler? Fuggedaboutit! This is San Hypocrit-sco!
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jim_NJ
          " It truly was unbelievable how so many people like American excess, but claim to care about the environment." Not really, most Libs are like that. The Prius is little more than a hair shirt, a public display of "green". Not that people in general aren't hypocritical creatures. Don't YOU speed. Don't YOU cuss. Don't YOU waste. etc, etc. The big difference, IMO, is that the Libs tend to be a bit more in-your-face about it, a bit more self-righteous and condescending. It's really off-putting. At least the Bible-thumping guys keep their trips to the strip clubs and extramarital affairs on the down low.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jim_NJ
          I don't agree SF has great public transit. They try though. The freeways are awful, they have actually REMOVED two major access roads in the last 25 years. They don't seem to want driving to be good there. So why would you expect SF to match Austin on car density, EV or no? Which non-union built foreign brands are you referring to? Most of the foreign brands preferred by monied types are built by unions. Japan, Korea, Germany, they all have unions.
          Jim_NJ
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Jim_NJ
          "I don't agree SF has great public transit. They try though." I haven't lived there for a while, but compared to New Jersey, the Bay Area is light years ahead in public transit. The last time I used public transit was to use BART to go from SFO to Pleasonton, where my brother from Modesto picked me up. BART wasn't even at the airport when I used to live there. The East Coast doesn't have anything to compare to that. But I'm sure you're right that there is room for improvement.
        Actionable Mango
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        Wow, you are taking that comment way too seriously. It was a friendly and humorous jab, not the opening speech to fight club.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Rotation
        Mueller isn't suburban sprawl. It is an central infill development where the old Austin airport used to be. It's a mixture of various types of housing, retail and employers (like Dell Children's Hospital). It's kind of like a little laboratory where an experiment just got started. What's crazy to me is that 1/3 of homes in Mueller have solar panels; you can see many homes with solar panels in the picture.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          I'm not saying it's not a private, comfortable and flexible home. All I'm saying is that you are being stupid if you compare car ownership rates (EV or no) between urban and suburban environments. Because in an urban situation some people have no car at all.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          Which part of that area of town do you think is urban, exactly? Do you know what urban means? Large separated houses that you have to drive between is not urban anything. It's suburban sprawl.
          otiswild
          • 2 Years Ago
          One man's sprawl is another man's private, comfortable, and flexible home.
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      I agree with Ezee, , educational programs and marketing utilizing sample communities is a good idea. This is especially true when GM selects a suburb, with a predominately white, middle-class, educated, affluent, environmentally aware,( but not radical) demographic. After all, these are the sort of buyers the Volt is aimed at attracting. ( The two black surveillance SUV's with smoked glass widows, parked on either side of the road, (but facing the crowd) look very ominous...... :)
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Marcopolo
        (smiling man) 'are the vans still there?' (smiling woman) 'yes, shut up, they have microphones' (smiling man) 'I hope they give us our children back once this is over' (man on ladder with camera) 'We all love the volt' (neighborhood, in unison) 'We Looooooooove the Volt'
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      Something good can come out of Texas after all..... :)
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Nick
        Mostly good stuff goes to Texas. Apple is building a huge new campus in Texas, GE is building a plant to produce green locomotives in Texas, Facebook is having their first major expansion - in Texas. For some strange, unknown reason, companies are moving to Texas for no identified reason that no one can figure out because questions like this simply cannot be answered. In unrelated news, businesses are leaving California, new York and Illinois, to places no one ever heard of before.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          Sorry nick! :) I was instigating again...
          Nick
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          EZEE The reasons are: 1) Extremely low real estate prices...because no one wants to move to Texas. 2) Taxes are lower, as corporations successfully bribed local politicians. All in all, it means corporations can make more profits, while paying the govt (us) less. In other words, Apple, GE etc will pay even less soon, and their bank accounts will grow further, while the American middle class (and everyone else except the top 1%) keeps eroding.
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EZEE
          Once we go bankrupt and have austerity programs like in Europe, the middle class will disappear the fastest, since they will see the brunt of their savings vanish to continue payments for the poor. Wealth from those who create jobs will be confiscated, and the super rich will leave, for places that have open arms to wealth and job creation. In Texas, with all f those businesses moving there, people have jobs and are happy. Unemployment is lower. No one wants to live there, yet everyone is moving there, and people are steaming out of NY, Illinios, and California. Don't worry though, once they take over, they will forget why they left, elect a bunch of people like the ones that destroyed their states, milk Texas dry, then start circling other states to swoop down and feed, until the bones are picked clean, and they move on again. Most everyone is gone from Detroit, the city is a wreck, and various suburbs are declaring bankruptcy now.
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