GM is in the energy business now • TechCrunch

General Motors starts a new line of energy products for homeowners, businesses and utilities — the next step in an EV offensive aimed at generating revenue beyond the manufacture and sale of electric vehicles and aimed directly at Tesla.

The product line will be housed in a new business unit called GM Energy and will cover the full range of electric vehicle ownership, including stationary energy storage, solar power through a partnership with Sun Run, and bi-directional charging technology to deliver power from vehicle to home to the grid . GM Energy has also developed a cloud product that contains data and management software that will help connect all of these hardware products together and ultimately balance the power grid while also incentivizing EV owners.

The new business unit has also developed large utility batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, Travis Hester, vice president of GM’s EV growth operations, told TechCrunch in a recent interview.

GM Energy is divided into three sectors that include residential, commercial, and retail. Each sector bears the Ultium name, the same branding that GM has given to the next-generation electric vehicle platform and the batteries of its new and upcoming electric vehicles.

The home energy system, which includes stationary storage similar to Tesla’s Powerwall product, will debut with the launch of the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV. GM did not release pricing information for its new products.

The parking space for homeowners

The Ultium Home line includes a stationary battery called Powervault, an EV charger, solar through its partner Sun Run, and a controller box that ties everything together.

But GM’s big offering to consumers isn’t just about how stationary storage keeps the lights on at home during a power outage, or even how solar power can charge their electric vehicle.

Instead, GM is also promoting a system that would allow consumers to sell energy from their EV and stationary storage batteries back to utilities during peak periods of high energy consumption.

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The business unit already has a pilot project with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company that allows residential customers to use their compatible electric vehicles, along with a bi-directional charger, as backup power for essential household needs during short-term power outages. The companies expect to expand vehicle-to-home service to a subset of residential customers in PG&E’s service arm in 2023.

Hester said GM also has a partnership with an unnamed real estate developer in California for a 3,000-home development that will have a pre-installed charger, Powervault, solar and controller box to connect them all together in each home.

The pitch to trading companies

GM energy

Photo credit: GM

Ultium’s commercial line includes much larger megawatt-scale batteries for energy storage, as well as a cloud service product that includes data and power management software.

The megawatt storage battery, which is somewhat similar to Tesla’s Megapack, has already attracted interest from commercial companies and utilities, according to Hester. About 10 companies have signed up for either pilot programs or to purchase the batteries and associated software.

The commercial line is close but not identical to what Tesla was selling. GM Energy also markets fuel cells, specifically selling the electrolyzer used to produce hydrogen, which then goes into the fuel cell. This fuel cell product can feed into the stationary storage battery or directly into the grid, Hester said.

The final piece, called the Energy Services Cloud, is what Hester describes as the brains of the operation.

This hub of GM Energy’s products can be used by residential, fleet and commercial customers to manage their energy consumption through software applications. The cloud product, which integrates with a utility’s software, is an information channel between customers and the power grid.

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“It will help us understand and manage energy prices per state and just understand what power outages or low energy supply issues we’re going to have,” Hester said, adding that it also helps manage customer behavior.

For example, the cloud product can calculate free capacity and then communicate with consumers via an app or web browser to connect their electric vehicles. GM Energy’s cloud service and software can then take small chunks of consumers’ battery capacity (for those who sign up for it), aggregate them, and offer them to utilities. The EV owner would then receive a payment from the agreement, which could be applied to a car payment or simply taken as revenue, Hester said.

“So this is a very, very powerful tool that we’ve built,” said Hester. “This energy cloud will help us know how and when to speak to large numbers of customers. If we’re going to access a million customers in minutes, we need to have ways to do that and then be able to talk to the utilities about what energy they need and be able to enact the behavior en masse Taxes.”

Some residential customers are already enrolled in an electric vehicle charging management program through their energy supplier using the Energy Services Cloud. GM Energy is also working with Con Edison, Graniterock and the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC), according to the automaker.

balance of power

GM Energy mobile charging app

Photo credit: GM

The global automotive industry is in the midst of a shift away from internal combustion engines towards electrified vehicles. Against this background, the problem of an aging, overloaded power grid emerges.

This is not only a problem in developing countries. Power outages in the United States are becoming increasingly common. According to the US Energy Information Administration, US electricity customers experienced a little over eight hours of power outages on average in 2020. This is the highest since the EIA began collecting power reliability data in 2013.

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And while researchers note that calculating the full economic cost of large blackouts is almost impossible, the Department of Energy has calculated that US commerce loses $150 billion annually to power outages.

A lot of people mistakenly think that electric vehicles are the problem that will create problems for the power grid, Hester said, noting that California is a good example. The state has an EV usage rate of 20% and only 1% of energy demand is for electric vehicles, he added.

The bigger problem for the network is balancing demand, which is where the cloud product and associated hardware products come in, according to Hester.


The final piece is Ultium Charge 360, a four-part plan unveiled back in April 2021 that aims to cover all the steps to charging an electric vehicle, including finding a public charger and paying for the electricity.

The program, now housed under GM Energy, was designed to handle the access, payment and customer service components of charging an electric vehicle at home and on the go.

GM initially signed agreements with seven third-party charging network providers, including Blink Charging, ChargePoint, EV Connect, EVgo, FLO, Greenlots and SemaConnect. GM customers can see real-time information, including location and whether a charger is being used. These features have been integrated into the existing branded apps that GM has developed for owners of its Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC vehicles.

Ultium Charge 360 ​​will continue to expand and improve, according to GM. Earlier this year, the company added the “plug and charge” feature, which allows drivers to simply plug into a range of different charging stations and automate payment.


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