The Chevrolet Volt's engineering team is using OnStar's wireless connectivity to get real-time data from preproduction Volt vehicles accumulating test-drive miles.
"We are literally updating, refining, and making more robust every module in the car all in parallel," said Dana Fecher, Group Manager of the OnStar EV Lab in Detroit.
Nick Pudar, Vice President of Planning and Business Development for OnStar, said that as of Dec. 17—118 days since data collections began—24 Volt development vehicles had accumulated a total of 86,405 mi (139,055 km). "We're pulling data from 20 different modules on each of those vehicles, and we've reached out to those vehicles 1741 times to pull information," said Pudar.
According to Fecher, those 1741 information pulls netted approximately 200,000 individual pieces of data.
Volt Vehicle Line Director Tony Posawatz said that OnStar's connectivity helps engineers make the Volt's lithium-ion battery pack more robust. For example, engineers can obtain data that indicates battery temperature or battery voltage at given points in time.
Access to the real-time data is helping engineers diagnose problems quicker.
"The speed of getting the feedback and the ability to crunch and manipulate and use the data for diagnosis is really, really helpful. We're feeling very good about the progress we're making," said Posawatz.
Volt owners will get an assist from a forthcoming Volt/OnStar mobile smartphone application, which will enable remote vehicle communication via Motorola Droid, Apple iPhone, or Blackberry Storm. The Volt/OnStar application also will be available on a mobile browser for other Internet-capable phones.
A Volt owner can use the smartphone application to communicate with the vehicle, for example, to schedule a time to charge the battery or initiate an immediate battery charge. Other functions include receiving text or e-mail notifications for charge reminders/charge interruption/full charge as well as starting the vehicle remotely to precondition the interior temperature, thus preserving the battery charge for electric-mode driving.
"We've accelerated the implementation of this technology, but we've done it in a manner that's very prudent and very robust so customers should say, 'Wow, these guys are thinking about everything,'" said Posawatz, adding, "The Volt has always been about an EV that can become your primary car—no range anxiety, all the features, all the amenities, and fun-to-drive characteristics. And we're going to deliver it November 2010."