In a Beverly Hills Mansion Where an Electric Truck is Your Only Source of Energy - Latest Global News

In a Beverly Hills Mansion Where an Electric Truck is Your Only Source of Energy

Last week, General Motors called a small group of journalists to a Beverly Hills mansion to witness the future of home energy. And it started with a preemptive power outage.

As sunset fell over the Hollywood Hills, General Motors’ chief engineer flipped a circuit breaker, unplugging the five-bedroom house. The lights went out and less than 20 seconds later, GM’s home system turned the car back on, drawing only 5 kW or less from the fully charged Chevy Silverado EV parked in the garage.

When the lights came back on, the small group of journalists and GM Energy employees clapped as if they were experiencing electricity for the first time.

When the lights came back on, the small crowd clapped as if feeling electricity for the first time

While a pickup truck may be an unusual location in the Tony district, the company wanted to show how its new energy subsidiary, GM Energy, could power an entire home using just the Silverado as a mobile generator. GM wanted to demonstrate the new features of its vehicle-to-home (V2H) energy products in a chic, if largely sterile, mansion in the wealthy enclave of Los Angeles.

(In case you’re house hunting, the uber-luxurious Beverly Hills mansion where the GM demo took place is currently for sale for nearly $25 million – and is rumored to have once belonged to Rat Pack member Dean Martin.)

Before the event, GM Energy installed a bi-directional charger, which the company calls GM Energy PowerShift Charger, as well as its own V2H activation kit, which includes an inverter and a home hub with a computer system that manages the loads in the house and a backup battery. The complete kit costs $12,699, but buyers can opt for the individual components for the same price.

Using GM Energy’s equipment, the 10,000-square-foot mansion was powered exclusively by battery power from the fully charged 215 kWh Ultium battery pack that powers the new Silverado electric vehicle for several hours on a Thursday evening for the event.

The home that once belonged to Dean Martin is for sale for $25 million.
Image: Abigail Bassett

But one couldn’t help but be struck by the cognitive dissonance on display. With demand and sales for electric vehicles waning, automakers like GM are increasingly trying to market their plug-in cars as something like a Swiss Army knife for the electric grid. The goal is to entice consumers to spend more on an electric vehicle in order to get access to all of these additional features that are not available to anyone who drives a car that runs on fossil fuels.

The rest of the night, the house was running with the Silverado EV powering more than 50 ceiling lights inside, music playing throughout the house, the kitchen where a fully staffed cooking team continued to prepare hot entrees for guests, and outdoor lighting running all the way down the 200 foot long driveway.

While EV technology offers consumers a range of new and innovative benefits, and the development of V2H systems for EVs offers many benefits, the clean energy market has presented rather mixed financial results in recent months. Still, GM remains optimistic and is moving forward with a team spanning private equity, climate technology and other industries.

“This really unlocks the potential of GM’s electric vehicle lineup.”

“This really unlocks the potential of GM’s electric vehicle lineup,” said Wade Sheffer, vice president of GM Energy. “Having this technology in this garage ready to do what it’s doing adds even more value to this property.”

“If you install one of these GM Home systems in every single customer home, you can create a decentralized network,” added William Hotchkiss, director of safety and supplier quality, purchasing and supply chain. “You can start making it an interconnected network so you can manage demand and everyone gets more reliability.”

The complete kit from GM Energy retails for over $12,000.
Image: Abigail Bassett

GM launched GM Energy in 2022 to compete in the growing home energy market and plans to sell additional devices including the power bank or stationary home battery system.

The automaker is no stranger to venturing into areas that seemingly don’t align with its core automotive business. Mechanical hearts were manufactured in the 1950s and, more recently, ventilators during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But at a time when electric vehicle sales haven’t grown as quickly as many automakers had expected, the question remains whether it makes economic sense to get into home energy. The market isn’t small, but it’s not exactly growing either. Current estimates put the value at around $150 billion.

The question remains open as to whether it makes business sense to enter the energy supply sector for private households

Other car manufacturers have also sensed an opportunity. Tesla touted its energy business, which includes home chargers, stationary batteries and solar panels, as a bright spot in last month’s earnings release. The company recently announced that it would begin rolling out two-way charging in 2025. Tesla dominates the market for home batteries and solar systems.

In addition to its electric vehicles like the Ioniq 5 and 6, which feature bi-directional charging, Hyundai also offers its own home energy integration that includes solar panels and battery storage. However, the automaker has stated that it is focusing more on vehicle-to-grid power than vehicle-to-home power.

GM is taking a similar approach, partnering with Qmerit to help homeowners install their GM Energy technology. The company says its new “holistic” home system “will help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.”

As Sheffer put it in our interview, “General Motors just believes we’re going to see mass adoption of electric vehicles, and we’re going to invest in the entire ecosystem.” We’re a separate company within the company, so General Motors invested in us, to deliver all parts of it.”

Currently, the Chevy Silverado EV is GM’s only vehicle with V2H capabilities.
Image: Abigail Bassett

While the Silverado EV is the only current vehicle to have this V2H capability, other GM electric vehicles, including the GMC Sierra EV Denali, the Chevy Equinox and Blazer EVs, and the Cadillac Lyriq, will also eventually receive this capability, either via an over-the-air or dealer-installed update.

While these features are similar to those already offered on the Ford F-150 Lightning, GM promises to make them more accessible to the masses. Its plan is to redesign its entire electric vehicle offering to enable V2H capabilities. However, there are no plans to open the system to third parties at launch.

For example, the GM Home kit is currently not compatible with other electric vehicles, including the Honda Prologue, which also features GM’s Ultium battery. According to executives at last week’s event, there are currently no plans to change this until ISO standards change.

“Right now, GM Energy offers the most comprehensive residential charging ecosystem on the market,” Sheffer said. “As soon as we had the power bank and the connection to the solar system, we stopped the tires.”

“As soon as we have the power bank and the connection to the solar system, stop the tires.”

Hotchkiss and Sheffer also confirmed that there are currently no plans for GM to enter the solar panel manufacturing or installation business because the market can be very congested. (The company had previously said it would work with third-party solar providers such as Sun Power.) Plans to allow customers to sell excess energy back to the grid are still in the works, Sheffer said, with GM currently piloting some smaller programs with utilities throughout the country.

These emergency power systems essentially provide microgrids for communities and homeowners who want to protect themselves from power outages due to extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change.

As the world continues to warm and climate change pushes the power grid to its limits, consumers are increasingly looking for ways to ensure they continue to have access to reliable energy. Since electric vehicles spend most of their time parked and plugged in home garages, GM sees an opportunity to use these parked electric vehicles as energy storage. Last week’s demonstration shows what that could look like.

Politics also plays a role in the energy sector. As demand for electricity rises, coal-fired power plants close and more solar and wind power come online, some politicians and critics of clean energy see the potential for the power reliability crisis to worsen. By providing a way for people to power their homes when the grid goes down, GM says it opens up new opportunities for individual consumers. And as Tesla’s polarizing CEO Elon Musk increasingly angers some of his most loyal potential customers, GM is offering a less “political” alternative.

It also turns out that consumers expect such features from their electric vehicles, at least according to a recent study from JD Power. The study found that over a third of electric vehicle owners said they were interested in bi-directional charging as a way to make money by selling electricity to the grid and help offset peak electricity demand.

While GM Energy and its suite of new features to support V2H support are still in their infancy, executives are optimistic about the company’s future. “GM is an off-grid automotive company. It only makes sense that we have the entire ecosystem,” Sheffer said. “That’s why GM said we’re going to be a pioneer here. If we don’t start, no one will ever get there. Here we go.”

This wasn’t a temporary solution either. GM executives promised that at this level of consumption, the Villa could run for three to four days before the battery was completely discharged. When I drove off around 9:30 p.m., the Silverado EV’s charge was only down 1 percent.

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