General Motors launched A new energy product line for homeowners, businesses and utilities — the next step in the EV offensive, aimed at generating and selling revenue beyond EVs and targeting Tesla directly.
The product line, which will be part of a new business unit called GM Energy, will cover all EV ownership, including stationary energy storage, solar and bidirectional charging technology through a partnership with Sun Run to deliver electricity from the vehicle to the home or to grid. GM Energy has also developed a cloud product that contains data and management software and helps tie all of these hardware products together to ultimately balance the grid while providing incentives for EV owners.
The new business unit also develops large batteries for utilities as well as hydrogen fuel cells, Travis Hester, vice president of GM’s electric vehicle growth business, told TechCrunch in a recent interview.
GM Energy is divided into three segments: residential, commercial and charging. Each division bears the Ultium name, with GM giving the same brand name to the next-generation EV platform and batteries for its new and upcoming EVs.
The home energy system, which includes stationary storage similar to Tesla’s Powerwall offering, will debut with the introduction of the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV. GM did not release pricing information for its new products.
pitch to homeowners
The Ultium Home range includes a stationary battery called the Powervault, an electric car charger, solar power through its partner Sun Run, and a controller box that connects everything together.
But GM’s big pitch to consumers isn’t just about how stationary storage can keep the lights in their homes on during a power outage, or even how solar power can charge their EVs.
Instead, GM is touting a system that would allow consumers to sell energy from their electric vehicles and stationary batteries back to the utility during periods of peak, high energy consumption.
The business unit has launched a pilot program with Pacific Gas and Electric Company to allow residential customers to use its compatible electric vehicles, along with bidirectional chargers, as a backup power source for essential household needs during short-term power outages. The companies expect to expand vehicle-to-home service to select residential customers within PG&E’s service area in 2023.
GM has also partnered with an unnamed real estate developer in California to develop 3,000 homes, Hester said, and the development will have chargers, Powervault, solar and controller boxes pre-installed in each home. connect them together.
Marketing to Commercial Enterprises
Ultium’s commercial product line includes larger megawatt-scale batteries for energy storage and cloud service offerings that include data and energy management software.
According to Hester, the megawatt-class battery, which is similar in some ways to Tesla’s Megapack, has already attracted interest from commercial enterprises and utilities. About 10 companies signed up to the pilot program or purchased batteries and accompanying software.
The commercial line is close to what Tesla has been selling, but not exactly the same. GM Energy is also selling fuel cells, specifically electrolyzers used to make hydrogen, which then goes into the fuel cells. The fuel cell product could be fed into stationary batteries or directly into the grid, Hester said.
The final piece, called the Energy Services Cloud, is the brain of what Hester describes as the operation.
This GM Energy product center is available to residential, fleet and commercial customers to manage their energy consumption through a software application. Cloud offerings that can be folded into utility software are the conduits of information between customers and the grid.
“This will help us understand and be able to manage energy prices in each state and understand what outages or low energy supply issues we’re going to have,” Hester said, adding that it will also help manage customer behavior.
For example, cloud products can calculate spare capacity and then communicate with consumers via an app or web browser to plug in their electric cars. The GM Energy cloud service and software can then take a fraction of the consumer’s battery capacity (for those who sign up for this) and aggregate it and make it available to the utility. Electric vehicle owners will then receive payments from the arrangement, which can be used for car payments or simply as income, Hester said.
“So this is a very, very powerful tool that we’ve been building,” Hester said. “This energy cloud will help us understand how and when to talk to a large number of customers. If we want to reach a million customers in minutes, we have to have a way to do that before we can talk to utilities about what energy they need , and be able to manage collective behavior.”
Some residential customers have signed up for EV charge management plans through their utility companies using the energy service cloud. GM Energy also partners with Con Edison, Granit Rock and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC), according to the automaker.
The global automotive industry is shifting from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. In this context, the problem of aging and overloaded power grids is imminent.
This is not just a developing country problem. Power outages have become more common in the United States. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2020, the average U.S. electricity customer experienced more than 8 hours of power outages. This is the highest number since the EIA began collecting electricity reliability data in 2013.
While the researchers point out that the full economic cost of a blackout is nearly incalculable, the Department of Energy calculates that U.S. businesses lose $150 billion a year to power outages.
Hester said that many people mistakenly believe that electric vehicles are the problem that will cause problems for the grid, noting that California provides a good example. He added that the state’s EV utilization rate is 20 percent, and only 1 percent of its energy needs go to EVs.
The bigger problem with the grid is balancing demand, which Hester said is where cloud products and supporting hardware products come in.
The final piece is Ultium Charge 360, a four-part program announced in April 2021 to handle all the steps of charging an electric vehicle, including finding a public charger and paying your electricity bill.
The program, now part of GM Energy, is designed to handle the access, payment and customer service components of charging electric vehicles at home and on the road.
GM initially signed agreements with seven third-party charging network providers, including Blink Charging, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgo, FLO, Greenlots and SemaConnect. GM customers will be able to see real-time information, including location and whether a charger is being used. These features are incorporated into existing branded apps that GM has created for its Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC owners.
GM says the Ultium Charge 360 will continue to expand and improve. Earlier this year, the company added a “plug and charge” feature that allows drivers to easily plug in and pay automatically at a range of different charging stations.