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GM and OnStar launch sophisticated mobile app for Volt [w/videos]

Chevrolet Volt Mobile Smartphone App – Click above for high-res image gallery

When the Chevy Volt goes on sale late this year, General Motors intends to leverage its popular OnStar technology to help drivers maximize their electric driving time and minimize their use of liquid fuel. To do that, GM created an OnStar/ EV lab last year at its Detroit headquarters. Engineers there have been working on how they can utilize available communications technology to save fuel, and the first public result is a new mobile phone application that is being announced at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

When the production version of the Volt was unveiled in 2008, many called the interior very Apple-like because of its smooth white plastic center stack with capacitive touch controls. Thankfully, for those of us who have not fallen prey to the allure of the iPhone, the new mobile phone app is being developed to work on other touch screen phones including the Motorola Droid and Blackberry Storm. Read on after the jump to learn more about what OnStar has created.

The OnStar EV lab located deep within the bowels of GM's Renaissance Center headquarters is where engineers and programmers have been working on new applications that will first appear later this year with the launch of the Chevy Volt. This new mobile phone application is the first and uses the OnStar communications infrastructure to let drivers monitor and manage the condition of their car's battery pack.

The mobile app has a user interface that looks visually similar to the instrument cluster in the Volt itself, including the battery state of charge gauge. It works by contacting the OnStar servers, which then contact your car. All new GM vehicles have a built in cellular connection that provides communications with OnStar for emergency services, turn-by-turn directions (even without a navigation system), remote unlock and vehicle health reports. Normally drivers have to either press the OnStar button in their car or use another phone to call OnStar to access these services.

The Volt application, however, will allow direct control of the car. Besides checking the current state of charge, the driver can set up several automatic notifications. For example, you can create a reminder for any given time to plug in your car if you haven't already done so. Since the car can sense if it is plugged in, it won't send an alert if you already hooked plugged it in when you returned home. However, if you neglected to plug in, you would get a message via your phone or an email to go plug it in at the appointed time. If your car becomes unplugged or loses power for whatever reason, you could also get a notification.

There is also a switch to set charging for "grid-friendly mode." In this mode, you can plug in the car but it won't actually start charging the battery until your utility switches over to off-peak rates, saving you money. You can also use the app to pre-condition the climate control system, turning on either the heat or air conditioning while the car is still plugged in so it uses the grid instead of battery power to achieve the desired temperature. It takes a lot more energy to bring the temperature up or down than it does to maintain a steady state, so this greatly reduces the load on the battery and preserves electric range. You can even use the app to take care of more mundane tasks like locking or unlocking the car remotely.

Pre-conditioning the battery is one of the keys to what GM hopes will be a 10 year/150,000 mile life for the Volt pack. By using the mobile phone app, drivers will be able to more easily let the car know when they plan to leave and have the car get itself ready. The app will initially be available for the Apple iPhone, Motorola Droid and Blackberry Storm. OnStar plans to expand availability to other Android phones as well later on. For now, if you have a Motorola Droid or supported Blackberry you can download a demo version of the app to check out the functionality and interface at A demo of the iPhone version should be available tomorrow.

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Chevrolet and OnStar Give Volt Owners 24/7 Connection and Control via Wireless Smartphone Application
  • Chevrolet Volt First Electric Vehicle to Demonstrate Wireless Smartphone Application
  • Volt showcases technology beyond the battery with OnStar Mobile Application
  • OnStar created a mobile application for Volt that provides drivers custom services and added control
  • Charging Volt is easy, convenient and efficient with OnStar Mobile Application technology
LAS VEGAS – Chevrolet and OnStar unveiled the auto industry's first working smartphone application that will allow Chevrolet Volt owners 24/7 connection and control of vehicle functions and OnStar features remotely.

OnStar's Mobile Application allows drivers to communicate with their Volt from Droid by Motorola, Apple iPhone and Blackberry Storm smartphones. It uses a real-time data connection to perform tasks from setting the charge time to unlocking the doors.

The Chevrolet Volt OnStar smartphone application is designed to enhance the overall Volt ownership experience with interaction and control never offered before on any electric vehicle. The application:
  • displays charge status – plugged in or not, and voltage (120V or 240V)
  • provides flexibility to "Charge Now" or schedule charge timing
  • displays percentage of battery charge level, electric and total ranges
  • allows owner to manually set grid-friendly charge mode for off-peak times when electricity rates are lowest
  • sends text or email notifications for charge reminders, interruptions and full charge
  • displays miles per gallon, electric only miles, and odometer readings
  • shows miles per gallon, EV miles and miles driven for last trip and lifetime
  • remotely start the vehicle to pre-condition the interior temperature
"The Chevrolet Volt ushers in a new era of automotive technology and calls for a new level of connectivity and control," said Walt Dorfstatter, president, OnStar. "Nearly 6 million vehicles on the road today use OnStar to stay connected, and our new smartphone app will make that even easier for Volt drivers."

OnStar's real-time data connection also helps drivers maximize the environmental benefits of owning a Volt, even when not in the vehicle. The application's intuitive Charge Status feature simplifies setting the charge time. Rather than using battery power, the application allows owners to start the Volt remotely to pre-condition the interior temperature using power from the grid. This preserves the battery charge for driving without gasoline.

When a charge command is activated, the Volt owner will receive a confirmation message on the application alerting the owner that a command has been successfully sent to the vehicle. If in view of the Volt, a green LED charge light on the dash will indicate the charge state.

Traditional OnStar features such as door lock, unlock and remote horn and lights – which have typically been accessible only through a call into the OnStar call center – will now be available via the application.

OnStar Mobile was developed from the ground-up by engineers in the OnStar EV Lab. In addition to this work, the team is leveraging OnStar's connectivity to the vehicle to gather real-time data about development models of the Volt as they are tested. OnStar engineers then share this real-time data with the Volt engineering team to speed the development process and help ensure quality at the start of production.

Demonstration applications for the Motorola Droid and Blackberry Storm will be available at beginning 10 p.m., EST, January 5. The demonstration application for the Apple iPhone will be available on the iTunes store on January 6.

Volt's OnStar mobile application will also be available on a mobile browser for other internet-capable phones. Volt drivers can also view and manage vehicle systems and commands from the vehicle, the internet or through a monthly OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics e-mail.

Volt owners can opt-in to receive a monthly OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics e-mail report with diagnostics on the unique characteristics of an electric vehicle with extended range, as well as the maintenance information current OnStar subscribers receive. OnStar will also provide the connection for the Volt owner website, which will allow many of the same capabilities as the mobile application along with more in depth information on the vehicle's history.

The OnStar subscription for the Chevrolet Volt will also include the safety, security and peace of mind services currently available to OnStar's subscribers including Automatic Crash Response, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Hands-Free Calling and Stolen Vehicle Assistance. The Volt is an electric vehicle with extended-range capability. It is designed to drive up to 40 miles on electricity without using gasoline or producing tailpipe emissions. When the Volt's lithium-ion battery is depleted of energy, an engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the total driving range to about 300 miles before refueling or stopping to recharge the battery.

OnStar Mobile Application will be available for Volt owners at launch. Production for the Volt is scheduled to begin in late 2010. Pricing has not been announced.

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