Archive for the ‘Features’ Category


Dec 24

WiFi in Car is Awesome, Volt Won’t Have it


[ad#post_ad]Our society has become inextricably connected to the Internet, and is becoming more so every day.

Up until recently, time spent riding in a passenger car has been for the most part a non-Internet experience.  Though Internet-enabled cell phones do allow connectivity, larger devices such as laptops, unless they had their own cellular modems, couldn’t connect there.   Now, however, both GM and Ford have announced new technology to turn their respective vehicles into rolling WiFi hotspots.

Earlier this month GM announced the availability of “Chevrolet Wi-Fi” by Autonet Mobile which will be an option on the following seven Chevy models: Equinox, Traverse, Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, and Express.

The system is dealer-installed and connects to the wireless 3G network transmitting a WiFi signal both within and beyond the car. It is intended for use by passengers only, and the 1.5 mbps signal can be obtained for up to 150 feet around the car. The device costs $199 and the service is $29 per month.

Ford more recently announced its own system in which its vehicles’ on-board SYNC USB connector will be configured to accept a user’s wireless modem. The signal will be then be amplified and transmitted by in-vehicle hardware turning the car into a wireless hotspot.  The user’s wireless modem and service would be purchased separately.

So if this technology is so great, wouldn’t it be great if the Volt offered it?

“No, the Volt will not have this capability,” says Volt spokesperson David Darovtiz.

Oh well.

Frankly, considering most wireless plans offer a free-standing hot spot creator that can be used anywhere (see graphic), one could therotecilly turn any car including the Volt into a hotspot, and of course it would work outside the car as well.

Is this vehicle technology useful or a gimmick?  You be the judge.


Dec 10

Chevy Volt Will Connect to Blackberry and iPhone Apps



[ad#post_ad]It is GM’s intention to make the Chevy Volt a very wired and connected high-tech car.

We have already known that charging will be programmable at least from the dash.  Drivers will be able to set the car to charge, for example, after midnight to take advantage of lower utility rates.  Another powerful set of real-time connected features will stem from OnStar system which is expected to be able to download to the car, among many other things, electricity rates from utility companies.

Nissan has previously announced their plan to make an iPod app that drivers could use to turn on or off their car’s charging and get text messages from their car.

GM it turns out has similar plans too.

Brent Dewar was the VP of Chevrolet when he showed a few flashy slides at the LA Auto Show last week while presenting the  the Volt and US Cruze, and the Volt’s paint color winner.  Yesterday Brent was removed from his position by the axe-weilidng Ed Whitacre just 5 months after taking it from Ed Peper.  Dewar will “retire” as of April 1 2010 and is being replaced by Jim Campbell.

Anyway, I digress.  Dewar had quickly flashed a slide across the screen revealing GM’s intention to develop mobile phone applications for controlling and interacting with the Volt. I captured the image and it is posted above.

GM sources have indicated that there will be applications at least for the iPod and the Blackberry.  These will soon be unveiled along with their potential functions.

Besides controlling when to charge the car, I could see these applications receiving signals from the car as well, indicating when charging is completed and if the driver forgot to plug it in at some time interval after arriving home.  Having forgotten to plug in my MINI E several times, I can assure you this function will be useful.

What functions would you like to see in a Volt mobile phone application? We might just have a chance to influence it.


Nov 25

GM Teams With National Federation for the Blind to Develop Safe Sound Alert For Electric Vehicles



[ad#post_ad]Electric cars are silent-running which for many people is a very good thing.  It can potentially lead to some risk to the visually-impaired and other pedestrians however as some studies show.

A study by the  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published in September reveled bicyclists and pedestrians are struck at a significantly higher rate by hybrid as opposed to conventional cars.

GM has created a special pedestrian alert signal for the Chevy Volt.  “It is an active system,” says Chief engineer Andrew Farah, meaning the driver must activate it.  Passive systems produce a sound at all times.  The Volt pedestrian alert sound is a light volume horn-like sound similar to the chirp of some cars keyless entry indicators.  “It has to be automotive,” says Farah referring to the  quality of the tone.

The fist generation Chevy Volt will not be equipped with a passive alert system.  Competitor Nissan has reportedly developed a system for its upcoming LEAF EV which sounds like a floating car from the Bladerunner movie. GM is looking at the possibility of passive alert for future Volt generations.  Other electric automakers such as Tesla remain uncertain.

Today GM has announced that they formed a partnership with the National Federation for the Blind to identify what will be a “safe level of sound” for alerting visually impaired and other pedestrians to the approach of a silent running EV.

Meetings have begun earlier this year and are also aimed at protecting runners, cyclists, and children.

“We have significant background in the area of pedestrian alerts dating to our work on our first electric car, the EV1,” Farah said, “The most important thing is to listen to the people who will interact with these vehicles in everyday life.”

Deborah Kent Stein, who chairs the NFB’s Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety, said, “A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demonstrated that the silent operation of hybrid vehicles is an issue for all pedestrians, not just the blind. In certain situations, electric or hybrid vehicles are twice as likely to be involved in collisions with pedestrians. The NFB looks forward to working with the safety agency in the crafting of appropriate standards establishing an acceptable level of minimum vehicle sound.”

“The National Federation of the Blind appreciates the opportunity to work with General Motors on this problem,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “We urge all automobile manufacturers to work with the blind in designing vehicle sounds to alert us to the approach, speed and direction of vehicles so that both drivers and pedestrians can safely use America’s roadways.”

A low-level low-speed vehicular sound for EVs may be inevitable, though no formal federal regulations currently exist. Future legislation may arise in concert with input from the Society of Automotive engineers to develop a national standard.

A lack of consensus and standards among automakers could conceivably result in a virtual cacophony of discordant sounds once streets become filled with EVs from various automakers.  Thus all cars should produce similar sounds, likely ruling-out the possibility of customizable “car tones,” as some pundits have speculated about.

Like it or not, the sound of silence appears to be on its way.

Below is GM’s video on the sound of the Volt:


Nov 16

Three Chevy Volt Paint Color Finalists Announced

Silver Emerald Volt

Silver Emerald Volt

[ad#post_ad]On October 22nd, GM announced a contest to allow members of the public to participate in choosing the name of the Chevy Volt’s signature silver with emerald hue paint color.

The decision process was in the form of a contest.

GM claims nearly 13,000 creative entries were received from which they were able to whittle down three finalists.

They are:
1) “EV-ergreen by Devin McQuarrie, 30, of San Jose, CA
2) “Viridian Joule” by by Dave Thomas, 40, of Sanford, FL
3) “environMINT” entered by Matthew Valbuena, 30, of Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

These finalists were decided “based equally on originality, creativity and the ability to capture the innovation and spirit of the Volt.”

Staring today you can vote for your favorite name below. The winner will be chosen by this public vote and will be flown all-expenses-paid to the LA Auto Show next month where it will be announced on December 1.

Not only will the winner go down in history as having named the Volts’ paint color but will also get an exclusive test drive of a pre-production integration Chevy Volt including in the now-ready-for-primetime charge-sustaining mode operation.


Editor’s Note:  There are reports on the Internet about an Ohio Chevy Dealer taking deposits on eBay.  The dealer claims to have Chevy Volt allocation.  This is denied by GM who report no dealer allocations have been given yet.


Oct 21

GM Reveals OnStar EV Lab Which Connects to Chevy Volt Prototypes, OnStar Will be Standard in Production


OnStar is General Motors’ cellular and GPS-based system for monitoring vehicles.

It currently provides real time assistance, directions, theft prevention and other features to 5.6 million drivers who pay from $199 to $299 per year for the service.

Its no secret that GM believes the Chevy Volt could gain significant value-added utility from having access to OnStar. In fact, Volt executive Tony Posawatz says the possibilities for this relationship are “mind-boggling.”

GM has yet to confirm or finalize all the OnStar-mediated features the Volt will offer, but have just shown off their new testing facility called the OnStar EV Lab.

Currently the lab is using OnStar to monitor 19 of the Chevy Volt integration prototypes.

Engineers are collecting all sorts of data from these cars each of which have 20 different independent modules that are capable of transmitting back status updates to the system.

The data includes performance and diagnostic information and relays such things as battery state of charge, temperatures, and thermal management operation.  Though the primary focus for now is real-time observation of battery health and function, GM is using the lab to develop the final features for the car once it reaches production.

Posawatz notes that OnStar could be used to communicate with the utility companies. Using this method, the cars could actually charge slowly or not at all when rates or demand is high, and then more rapidly when rates are lower, reducing the drivers expense.

A more simplified approach would be to simply let the driver manually program in those parameters in the same way one programs an automated household thermostat.

“The car will have to talk to the grid and be able to pull very sensitive (utility) data,” Posawatz told CNET. “Electric vehicle customers want to manage their energy–they’re very into data. OnStar is an enabling tool for us.”  GM is currently working with EPRI to collect some of this data nationwide.

Posawatz also cautions that the ability of the car to communicate with local utilities will limit the pace of the car’s rollout.

“It certainly won’t be a nation-wide roll-out (at first),” he said.  The whole nation might not see these cars until sometime in 2011.

Another potential use for OnStar will be in the other direction allowing for example firmware upgrades to the car.

And for those who might ask, Tony Posawatz has confirmed to, “OnStar will be standard with VOLT.”

Back in late 2008 we heard then GM executive Bob Kruse say that “OnStar gives us the opportunity to know more about the environment the driver is driving in,” implying that terrain could be taken into account to show the driver the most energy-efficient route home.

If it was clear that a driver was returning home, OnStar could also shut off the ICE to let the driver arrive “as close to zero as practical or possible,” minimizing the use of petroleum.

In response to that post, readers generated 180 responses, some of which I’ve been told by reliable sources were actually integrated into the car by the Volt team.

Any more ideas?

Source (CNET) and (Autoblog)


Oct 15

Poll: Volt Will Offer a Low Power HVAC Option, Will You Choose it?


One question the Volt engineering team is often asked by journalists is how much accessory electric draw will effect the Volt’s 40 mile all electric range.

Clearly there will be an effect.  During the recent 30 to 40 degree mornings I, for example, have been driving my MINI E electric car with the heat on moderately for the first time since I got the car in June.  This is resulting in around a 10 to 15% decrease in range.

Conventional gas cars are able to use the heat of the gas engine to heat the car but pure electric cars and the Volt in EV mode don’t have that luxury instead having to rely on electric heating elements.

Indeed GM announced in August that using some unspecified average amount of HVAC and city driving schedule, the Volt would achieve 25 kWH/100 miles.

As was reported yesterday, a fleet of eight integration Volts are currently on a three day extended test drive which will total 1200 miles of driving.

Among many other things, engineers have been testing the HVAC and Volt engineer Andrew Farah explains how the Volt will handle this issue when he was asked how HVAC draw will affect range.

There is going to be an effect , there is no question about it. What we’re trying to do is give the customer an opportunity to decide how much they want it to have an effect.

For example, one of the things that the Volt has that other cars don’t is not only do you select what temperature you want and things like that, but you can also select if you want it to use full available power because you’re interested in being 100% comfortable 100% of the time, or whether or not you want to restrict how much power the system can use.  Yes that will take a little longer to heat or cool the cabin, but again it really has to do with what the customer is interested in doing. We try to make it easy for them to make that kind of choice.

So it seems the Volt will let you dial in an economy HVAC option to extend your EV range if desired.  It is also believed that the Volt will be able to programmably precondition the temperature of its cabin while plugged-in, using grid energy, therefore requiring less energy from the battery once driving begins.

So what are the priorities of we early adopters?  Will you choose to limit your HVAC power to extend range, or just go for sheer comfort?

What HVAC Mode of Operation Do You Plan to Use in Your Chevy Volt?

  • Low Power (slow to heat and cool cabin, more pure electric range) (45%)
  • Normal Power (faster heating and cooling, less pure electric range) (40%)
  • Doesn't Matter (14%)

Total Votes: 1,452

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