Volt So Tech Savvy — Features Its Own Volt Phone Apps

January 2, 2009/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS GREEN WHEELING BY DAN CARNEY

Chevrolet Volt buyers are expected to be a tech-savvy bunch who enjoy the latest gadgets, so the company will cater to their desires with a sweet new smart phone application, helping them optimize their Volt for cheaper recharges and more miles on battery power.
The new app, which will be free to Volt buyers, will let them see their car’s state of charge and schedule its charging. That means that once it is plugged in, they can remotely tell the car to start charging immediately, if they expect to need to drive somewhere soon, or they can tell it to wait until late at night, when the electric rates are lower.
What if they have forgotten to plug in the car?
Then Volt will text or email them a reminder if it is unplugged after a pre-set time of day.
What if Volt gets unplugged while charging or the power goes out?
Again, the Volt will send an alert to the driver’s phone using its onboard cell phone and the OnStar communication network.
OnStar also enables other cool capabilities, unrelated to the Volt’s battery pack, such as remote door lock and unlock, and the ability to flash the car’s lights and honk the horn to find it in a parking lot. Some of these non-EV portions of the app are likely headed to other models.
“You can expect us to be thinking about it and working on it hard,” said Nick Zielinski, chief engineer of the Volt.
Although the Volt app will let drivers display their latest efficiency information to show friends, the app isn’t just about glitz. It can actually help drivers save money by helping schedule charging for times when the electricity is cheaper and helping them avoid forgetting to charge, which will mean they have to drive on more costly gas power.
Also, the app lets owners pre-condition the Volt’s cabin temperature, either with heat or air conditioning, while it is still plugged in to the electric grid. That means that the car will use less of its stored juice to heat or cool the interior, leaving more battery power to propel the car. This effectively increases the Volt’s battery-only driving range in both hot and cold weather.
“It is an excellent use of all the resources involved,” remarked Stephanie Brinley, senior manager of product analysis for market researcher AutoPacific, Inc. “I like the up-to-the-minute usage part of the app,” she added.
Indeed, this kind of technology is ideal for the anticipated Volt buyers, said James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “The Volt is a completely different way to think about a car, and these customers are used to doing so many things on their phones, so it is a great fit,” he said. “For those early embracers [of technology], that app will knock it out of the park for them.”
The company plans apps for the Apple iPhone, Blackberry Storm and Motorola Droid, and other devices will be able to run a web app in their browser. — Dan Carney, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010