General Motors has already been abundantly clear that it sees its future—and a big business opportunity—in electric vehicles.
On Tuesday it confirmed that it plans to offer its first home energy system with the retail launch of the 2024 Chevy Silverado EV due to arrive in fall 2023. The system will have a preferred installation partner, SunPower, with optional solar.
That’s a small piece of the company’s wider ambition announced at the same time: the idea that it also sees itself as an energy manager directly involving EVs but also well beyond them.
GM Energy - Ultium Home
Under a new overarching business unit called GM Energy, the company plans to incorporate its Ultium Charge 360 services with Ultium Home and Ultium Commercial.
Through these three areas, the company wants to be involved in “cohesive energy management for home, commercial, and EV customers, with solutions ranging from bi-directional charging, vehicle-to-home (V2H), and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications, to stationary storage, solar products, software applications, cloud management tools, microgrid solutions, hydrogen fuel cells and more.”
GM Energy app
On one level, GM wants to be an energy broker, managing the sale of energy either from EVs or storage batteries back to utilities when it’s advantageous, potentially helping to avert power outages and lower costs, and compiling a list of Ultium Charge 360 solutions for fleets and consumers.
On another level, it will have a direct role in the on-the-ground hardware used for that. GM mentions SunPower for solar and says that a partnership with the company will provide integrated solar panels and home energy storage—allowing EVs to power the home in the event of a power outage, or to draw from stored energy during peak rate times, easing the load on the grid.
Management of such activities would be through an Energy Services Cloud, leveraging data tools and partnerships with utilities and energy companies.
GM Energy - Ultium Commercial
One of those collaborations is the pilot program between GM and California utility PG&E last March—allowing a “small subset” of customers to receive power from their EV in the event of a power outage. GM reports that after initial lab tests, the program will start in 2023.
GM announced plans in July to form a 350-kw coast-to-coast charging network with Pilot and Flying J travel centers. And early this year it suggested that its Hydrotec hydrogen fuel-cell power generators could help support the grid or add EV charging where the grid can’t support it.
The Silverado EV won’t be the first electric pickup helping to backstop blackouts. The Ford F-150 Lightning is already available with a home energy system that allows home backup—vehicle warranty intact—with some of the function customers might get from a Tesla Powerwall. Ford’s partner on its system is Sunrun.
GM hasn’t yet detailed the system in the Silverado EV. Earlier this year a patent filing revealed that GM may be considering a dual-charge-port layout that might help make the most of the double-layer battery pack expected in some versions.