General Motors, OnStar and local power utilities are collaborating to help address some of the biggest potential flaws in the electric vehicle concept.

One concern that many prospective buyers have regarding the transition to electric vehicles is the effect that charging their cars may have on the current power grid.

In many cities, power companies already struggle to meet the electricity demands of their customers. Charging an electric car's batteries when the system is already strained, some fear, could cause rolling blackouts and large-scale power outages.

Electric car advocates have countered that argument by saying an electric vehicle owner could prevent any issues by charging his or her car during off-peak times. Usually late at night and early in the morning the demand for electricity drops as people shut off their electronics and go to bed.

By waiting to charge a car until there is electricity to spare, EV owners can help prevent from overloading the system.

GM is looking to make this process easier by automating recharge times with its OnStar system. With the new system, OnStar can monitor a car's battery levels and notify the local power company, so the car can recharge during off-peak hours.

This, GM says, means power companies will be able to better manage usage levels, and will allow customers to lower their electricity bills.

GM says the program is similar to those already in use on some air conditioning systems. In some cities, people can allow their power companies to remotely turn off their air conditioning units when the city?s grid is strained.

The program is currently in its pilot stage, but participating utility company employees will be able to lease a fleet of Chevrolet Volts equipped with the new system to help pave the way towards a smarter grid, and a more viable electric vehicle future.

author photo

J. Mark Sternberg is an automotive journalist, car enthusiast and writer with a degree from the University of Arizona. Mark is a devoted Formula 1 fan and also enjoys boating, flying and attending the occasional track day.

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