Own a Volt, Get a Jolt With Free Chargers From GM and the Feds

6/17/10

General Motors is planning to give away free high-speed home chargers to juice up its gas-electric hybrid Chevy … I mean, Chevrolet … Volt when it’s released to customers this year.

The money to cover the 4,400 freebie 240-volt chargers comes from federal stimulus dollars and is part of the Detroit automaker’s general strategy of using Volt owners as guinea pigs to see what works and what doesn’t in new electric vehicles. This program will help GM and the Department of Energy study electric vehicle usage to see how it affects the grid as a whole.

GM still has not said when, exactly, it will release the Volt, which will be able to travel 40 miles on a full electric charge before a gasoline-powered generator kicks in to keep the battery charged for another 300 miles per tank. This latest announcement keeps it a vague “later this year.”

But I do know that GM is planning to make good use of the early adopters. Tim Nixon, an exec at GM subsidiary OnStar, told me when I was writing about a smartphone app specifically for Volt owners that since Volt represents something brand new for GM, the company is going to be turning to its users often for feedback.

The only catch is that if Volt owners opt for the 240-volt charging station (a regular, slower-charging 120-volt station will already come free with the car), they’ll have to agree to “share their charging information” with the Department of Energy. So, government conspiracy theorists need not apply. The DOE will collect data such as average charge time, energy usage, and when charging typically begins and ends and then use the information to see what infrastructure is required for widespread adoption.

Coulomb Technologies of Campbell, CA, and ECOtality of Tempe, AR, will provide the charging stations.

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