General Motors (GM) is starting its own energy storage business using Ultium batteries to power homes and charge cars, as well as feed power into the grid when needed.
The new business unit, called GM Energy, will consist of 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.
Similar to how Tesla ( TSLA ) builds its Powerwall and Powerpack products, GM’s home and commercial batteries will be based on the same type of batteries used in the automaker’s electric cars. They will be placed in large stable packages for energy storage to reduce the need for electricity during peak demand periods.
They can also provide power during outages and can even send power back to the grid to provide backup when power needs may exceed what the utility can provide on its own. Landlords will generally credit their electricity bill for the amounts sent back to the grid. Tesla has used its energy storage products in this way to create what it calls Virtual Power Plants, which could, in theory, reduce the need for utilities to turn on additional power generators during peak periods.
The new GM division will also provide software and hardware for use electric vehicles themselves as energy storage devices that, when parked and plugged in, can provide electricity to a home during short power outages. GM Energy will work with Pacific Gas and Electric of California on a pilot program to test the concept using GM electric vehicles starting in 2023, GM said in the release. The Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup will be GM’s first two-way charging vehicle, but more will follow.
Other automakers are also working on so-called two-way charging, which allows electric cars to serve as temporary power isolators for homes. Ford Motor Company said many Ford F-150 owners used their truck’s Pro Power Onboard feature, a feature available on electric and gasoline versions of the truck, to power their homes after Hurricane Ian hit Florida.
GM Energy also works 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 around the end of 2023, said Mark Bole, head of V2X and battery solutions for GM Energy. V2X refers to vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid power flows.
An overall goal of the subsidiary, according to GM, is to help alleviate concerns about potential strains electric vehicles could cause on power grids across the country. Having energy storage capabilities could help reduce pressure on power grids by allowing vehicles to charge with energy savings during periods of reduced demand. Having the vehicles themselves act as energy storage could also help reduce concerns about short-term blackouts and blackouts. The software can also be used to help electric vehicle owners coordinate charging activity to avoid large spikes in demand.
“We see EVs as part of the solution,” Bole said.