(CNN) — General Motors is launching its own energy storage business with its Ultium battery packs to power homes and charge cars, as well as supply power to the grid when needed.
The new business unit, named GM Energy, will consist of the Ultium Home, Ultium Commercial and Ultium Charge 360 divisions. Ultium Home and Ultium Commercial, as their names suggest, will provide energy storage for homes and businesses, respectively.
Ultium Charge 360 is GM’s existing electric vehicle charging software application that allows drivers to find public chargers for their vehicles. GM Energy will also be involved in hydrogen fuel cell and solar energy products, GM said in its announcement.
Much like Tesla builds its Powerwall and Powerpack products, GM’s residential and commercial battery packs will be based on the same type of batteries used in the automaker’s electric cars. They are packaged in large stationary packs to store energy to reduce power needs during periods of peak demand.
They can also provide power during power outages and even send power back to the grid to provide support when power demands may exceed what the utility company alone can provide. Typically, the amounts sent back to the grid are credited to owners’ electricity bills. Tesla has used its energy storage products in this way to create so-called virtual power plants, which could theoretically reduce the need for utilities to turn on extra power generators at times of peak demand.
The new GM division will also provide software and equipment to use electric vehicles themselves as energy storage devices that, when parked and plugged in, can power a home during brief power outages. GM Energy will work with California company Pacific Gas and Electric on a pilot program to test the concept with GM electric vehicles beginning in 2023, GM said in the announcement. The Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup will be the first GM vehicle capable of bi-directional charging, but others will follow.
Other car manufacturers are also working on so-called bidirectional loading, with which electric cars can serve as a temporary power buffer for households. Ford Motor Company said many Ford F-150 owners used their truck’s Pro Power Onboard feature, a feature available on electric and gas-powered versions of the truck, to power their homes after Hurricane Ian hit Florida.
GM Energy is also working with several major energy companies, according to the GM announcement. The new subsidiary is also working with solar energy provider SunPower, which will install solar panels on customers’ homes, GM said.
All of these systems will be controlled by software applications that will be released towards the end of 2023, said Mark Bole, head of V2X and battery solutions at GM Energy. V2X refers to the flow of electricity from vehicle to home and from vehicle to grid.
An overarching goal of the subsidiary, according to GM, is to allay concerns about the potential strain electric vehicles could put on power grids across the country. Electricity storage capabilities could help ease the load on power grids by allowing vehicles to be charged with saved electricity during periods of low demand. Having vehicles themselves serve as electricity storage could also help alleviate concerns about short-term blackouts and power outages. Software can also be used to help EV owners coordinate their charging activities to avoid large spikes in demand.
“We see electric vehicles as part of the solution,” said Bole.
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