One of the biggest criticisms of electric cars is that they only move the pollution from the tailpipe of a car to the smoke stack of a power station. 

But a new application developed by General Motors' OnStar devision aims to help Chevrolet Volt owners charge their plug-in hybrid when it will have the smallest carbon footprint.

The system works by collecting information from utility companies in real-time about the current power mix of the power grid. 

It then notifies Chevrolet Volt customers via its OnStar smartphone apps when the majority of power being generated comes from renewable sources such as wind, solar or geothermal. 

If permitted by the owner, the system could even remotely start and stop Volt charging in response to grid demand, energy power mix, and time constraints. 

In developing this system, GM hopes it can soon help Volt owners to not only charge their cars when it is greenest or when demand is lowest, but also when it is cheapest.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

The knock-on effect of the app?

By helping to influence when Volt owners charge their cars, the OnStar system will not only lower the carbon footprint of each driver, but lower the carbon footprint and power demands of the utility. 

At the moment, the system is still being tested in collaboration with Google. Using the 17 Chevrolet Volts which are currently part of Google’s Gfleet, OnStar and Google have already dramatically reduced the carbon footprint associated with charging each car, enabling the GFleet Volts to be as green as they possibly can be. 

While only a test-project, GM has hinted it is keen on producing a commercial solution to help Volt owners make informed choices about when to charge. 

“This demonstration shows that in the near future customers will have a real signal of demand for renewable energy,” said Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development. “As customers configure their Volts to favor renewable energy for their charging cycle, this real demand signal will influence utilities to tap into renewable sources.”

GM hasn’t said if or when it hopes to introduce power-grid awareness into OnStar, but if tests at Google prove successful, we'd expect the features to be ofered to OnStar plug-in car drivers in the coming years. 


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.