Electric vehicle owners have learned to adapt everything from driving style to trip planning after taking delivery of their new ride. But one aspect of EV ownership is often overlooked: how to calculate consumption. General Motors’ OnStar division is tackling the problem with a new app developed for Chevrolet Volt owners undergoing the shift from figuring out miles per gallon to the new “cost per mile.”

The amount of money it takes to operate an EV is more difficult to track, since an owner can’t rely on EPA MPG ratings or the convenient “cost per tank divided by miles driven” formula. The new OnStar EcoHub app should help Volt owners take the guesswork out of how much it costs to charge the plug-in hybrid, as well as answer other energy-consumption questions.

But before releasing the new EcoHub app to all Volt owners, GM plans to first put it through its paces by making it available to residents of the Pecan Street smart-grid demonstration project in Austin, Texas. The trial employs a mixed-used, sustainable neighborhood built on the site of a former municipal airport and includes the world’s first LEED-platinum hospital, green office buildings and businesses, and housing for over 1,000 residents. Like OnStar’s Smart Grid research, teams of researchers from the University of Texas, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Environmental Defense Fund that make up Pecan Street Inc. are supported in part by a $10.4 million Department of Energy grant for developing and testing clean-energy smart-grid technology
That’s where the EcoHub app comes in. It gathers data on overall home energy use supplied by local utility providers and also collects charging information culled from OnStar-subscribing Volt owners who opt in to supply the data. The app then aggregates the information to show Volt owners how much energy they’re consuming to drive the car on a daily, monthly or yearly basis, and also what percentage of their overall electrical use goes towards charging the car. The data is also broken down by dollars and cents to show the cost of total energy usage and what it costs to charge the Volt based on local electricity rates.
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