GM Launches New GM Energy Division So Its Electric Vehicles Can Feed The Power Grid

Morning Dump Gm Energy

GM wants to change the way energy is used, Nissan adds pay-as-you-go leasing, Ford adds a third shift in Windsor. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

GM Enters The Energy Arena

Gm Energy
Photo credit: GM

In an era where the lines between vehicle and utility are blurred, it’s not surprising to hear Automotive News’ report that GM is moving into the energy business. By creating a new brand called GM Energy, GM hopes to offer commercial and residential consumers added flexibility regarding energy use.

“This all allows us to move into a new white space that’s being created by energy management,” Travis Hester, vice president of GM EV growth operations, told Automotive News.

The availability of all GM Energy components is expected by the end of 2023, Hester said. But the initial rollout already started in August and will occur in stages, he said.

GM Energy won’t exclusively sell residential and commercial charging stations. Battery banks, solar integration, and fuel cell compatibility are also on the table. A big part of GM Energy’s unique selling proposition is bi-directional charging functionality, otherwise known as vehicle-to-grid. However, the exact details of GM Energy’s vehicle-to-grid functionality remain a bit vague. From Automotive News:

“If you’re a customer and allow GM Energy to access, say, 10 percent of your battery on an as-needed basis we can move that energy around,” Hester said.

While it’s great to be able to opt out, that quote raises questions for those thinking of opting in. The way I see it, vehicle-to-grid outside of emergency situations likely won’t get off the ground unless EV owners are fairly and clearly compensated for energy flowing from their battery packs, and can set limits on energy flow to ensure the occasional necessary full charge of the car. Electric vehicle owners pay for energy consumed from the grid, so electricity providers should pay or credit EV owners for energy drawn out of battery packs using clear terms and the same scheme the customer pays. While some electric companies like the New Hampshire Electric Co-Op are planning fair vehicle-to-grid compensation programs, these programs are far from standardized across the country and may be confusing to consumers. In a 2012 paper (which, yes, I realize is a bit old, but still communicates my point) the Idaho National Laboratory highlighted the need for concise communication.

Utility Electric Service Rules need to be accessible and easy to understand. Many of the utilities already have their rule book available online; however, it may not be easy to find or interpret. As utilities roll-out new rates, incentives, or programs related to V2G, it will be important to keep the target customer in mind when designing communications and participation requirements.

The Federal government hasn’t yet stepped in to standardize vehicle-to-grid programs, so a level of consumer protection would go a long way towards preventing EV owners from being taken for a ride. Should protections be in place and electric companies universally adopt a rebate system in which EVs charge at cheaper off-peak hours and owners get compensated for feeding the grid during more expensive on-peak hours, vehicle-to-grid could really help EV adoption. We’re reaching out to GM to learn more about all of this.

It’s interesting to see GM hopping into the energy space at a time when many manufacturers are just starting to think about charging. While solar integration and vehicle-to-grid hold a lot of promise, it remains to be seen whether execution will be satisfactory.

Nissan Adds Pay-As-You-Go-Leasing

2023 Nissan Pathfinder (1)
Photo credit: Nissan

Automotive News reports that Nissan Motor Acceptance Co. is rolling out a sort of pay-as-you-go lease program called SignatureFLEX. It gives each customer a base limit of 5,000 miles per year, with the option to add more. For context, it’s typical for leases to come with 12,000 included miles per year; a lower-mileage lease costs less each month, as the vehicle depreciates less and thus is worth more when it’s turned back in. From Automotive News:

Jim DeTrude, vice president of NMAC sales and marketing, said customer data show a desire for lower-mileage leases. In response, Nissan last year introduced a 10,000-mile-per-year lease that became the most popular option for its new-car contracts. That was a change from 2020 when 67 percent of new-car leases were 12,000 miles per year.

NMAC created SignatureFLEX in part because of “the trends we were seeing on reduced mileage and came from our dealers that were recommending, based on what they were hearing from their customers, a desire for a lower-mileage option,” DeTrude told Automotive News last week.

Driving patterns have changed massively due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many workers going from in-office to at-home virtually overnight. For those who don’t have a daily commute as such, a low-mileage lease could be an affordable way of getting into a new car. The program will initially only be available on the Rogue, Rogue Sport, and Pathfinder, although Nissan may roll it out to more models depending on success. Fingers crossed that happens, a low-mileage lease on a Kicks would be stellar for city dwellers who still need occasional car use.

New Car Production Cuts Forecast For Europe

Continental Tire Production
Photo credit: Continental AG

Just because the chip shortage may be easing doesn’t mean that carmakers are out of the woods yet. Reuters reports that analysts at S&P Global Mobility are predicting that the European energy crisis will cut the region’s new car output by 40 percent.

In a report titled ‘Winter is Coming,’ S&P Global Mobility said the auto industry’s supply chain – already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – “may face extensive pressure” from soaring energy costs or even power cuts.

“With energy prices in Europe skyrocketing… a harsh winter could place certain automotive sectors at risk of being unable to keep their production lines running,” the report said.

Edwin Pope, S&P Global Mobility principal analyst for materials and lightweighting, told Reuters the analysis was conducted before the likely sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines late last month.

“Events like that will inevitably shift the scales towards the lower end of what we have predicted, especially in terms of how long it takes to repair things of this nature,” Pope said.

Not only does this threaten new car production, it threatens suppliers that churn out parts for cars both new and old. A stream of important bits necessary for keeping out beloved machines on the tarmac could soon start to dry up.

Ford To Add A Third Shift In Windsor

New 6.8 Liter V8
Photo credit: Ford

Good news from Canada: The Windsor Star reports that Ford’s Windsor engine plant will add a third shift in January to crank out new 6.8-liter V8 engines for the 2023 Ford Super Duty.

Just how many new hires that shift will require has not been finalized, but a decision is expected this month.

“The January start is firm we’ve been told,” said Unifor Local 200 vice president Tim Little.
“Ford is putting everything in order, clearing their supply chain to ensure we get the parts needed because the 6.2-litre engine built in Romeo (Michigan) is going away. They have to have the 6.8-litre for that Kentucky truck plant.”

“That (announcement) was huge for us,” Little said. “Kentucky is the most profitable plant in North America bar none. That plant never stops running.”

Creating more well-paying unionized jobs in the automotive industry is a good thing. They help hardworking families put food on the table and experience great benefits like dental care that really enhance quality of life. There was a moment when it felt like automotive manufacturing was once again draining from Canada. GM temporarily shuttered its Oshawa assembly plant, Ford’s Oakville plant is set up with aging product, and Honda moved more model line production to America. I’m glad to see some investment in the Great White North.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. While driving enthusiasts regard simulators as the fastest, cheapest way to enhance driver development, sometimes the doofy fun of an arcade racing game is more suited to quick blasts. With that in mind, I’d love to ask what your favorite arcade racing game is. For me, nothing beats Burnout 3: Takedown. The physics aren’t great, motion blur is intense, and game mechanics aren’t exactly traditional. However, it’s just big, dumb fun with a killer licensed soundtrack.

Lead photo credit: GM

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27 Responses

  1. I see some benefits to the homeowner being able to use a vehicle as energy storage when power is cheaper and energy use at the house when power is more expensive, if a homeowner has on-site generation like PV. Then they can store their excess power during the day and use it at night. But most people have their car at work during the peak power generation times. Currently though, there’s little benefit to the consumer for to putting power back onto the power grid. My utility is not in a net-metering situation, and power put back onto the grid is credited at a far lower rate than energy used by the grid. Also, there’s additional equipment that will need to be added to each house to prevent flow of energy back onto the grid in a power outage situation. I don’t think the math is going to work out to make this very viable in most situations. If there are any benefits, it will heavily favor the utility and GM.

    1. Ah, but GM will take a part of your energy credit for power back to the grid (thanks for doing your part for the environment, sniff) and use it to pay their own energy bill at their plants. Mark my words. Mark them!

  2. 1). GM is a little late to the party but they seem to be putting their best foot forward on EVs despite the well documented issues with the Bolt. Good on them. Now put the Z06 engine in a Camaro so I can possibly afford it one day, cowards.

    2). I read about this on the orange site yesterday and I actually think it’s a good idea. With the cost of new cars being as insane as it is these days it’s good for people who don’t drive all the time to have a lower cost option so they aren’t overpaying for mileage they don’t wind up using. I’ve been critical of Nissan for preying on sub prime borrowers in the past but this seems okay to me.

    3). I didn’t think European fun cars could get more expensive but this seems to suggest they can and will.

    4). ….can we put it in a Mustang? I know it’s a truck engine but a 6.8 liter V8 is a 6.8 liter V8 and Ford’s successful foray into EVs means they’re not in a dire place with CAFE standards like Stellantis is. In addition to requesting a Camaro with the Z06 powertrain I’d also like to request a Mustang with this one. Call it the Thunderhorse too so I can have Dethklok blasting when I wind up wrapping the thing around a tree while leaving cars and coffee.

    The Flush: I have a weird pick for this one-Need For Speed Porsche Unleashed. That game absolutely captivated my imagination as a kid, and when combined with some Porsche racing books my family also got me, were instrumental on sending me on the gearhead path.

    Playing the main, chronological mode was an interesting lesson in Porsche history as well and it let you interact with many of their classic cars. I’m obviously biased since I’m a shameless lover of all things Porsche, but it was just such a cool and well thought out game. It even taught me a lot about modifying cars, as certain combinations of mods would work in some cars but not others. You had to be intentional with it to maximize the performance of all your cars…although the 993 Turbo was OP as hell once you modded it.

    1. Cosigned on Porsche Unleashed, great fun sliding assorted P-cars through various European forests.

      Also, pretty sure Ford is at least trying to support the aftermarket in making their big V8’s swappable in to Mustangs – there’s a mule running around with one, and it fits well except the stock intake requires a ton more vertical space,so it’s got a massive hood.

  3. Not a pure racing game, but “Mafia” had the coolest cars.

    If you aren’t familiar with it, it is GTA set in 1920’s-30’s New York City. You start off driving Model T’s and A’s and eventually work you way up to Duesenbergs, Auburns, V16 Cadillacs, etc. (all renamed to avoid license fees).

    There is one challenge in which you have to race in a 1930’s Indy-style race car on a big-banked oval circuit. Took me forever before I could win and move on.

    Once you complete the main game, a freeride extreme mode is unlocked where you can drive around town and find tasks to earn hot rods/concept cars, including t-buckets, deuce coupes, and even the Phantom Corsair.

    Awesome game for fans of pre-war cars.

    1. I’ll put the Mafia games up there with GTA for their fictionalized versions of cars creativity. While GTA is more over the top parody, the Mafia games are more grounded. Mafia 3’s 60’s era cars really did capture the feel of the time.

    2. Better physics than GTA games too. Mafia 3 is a lot closer to realistic vehicle dynamics than most driving-oriented games. GTA5’s physics are crap. I wish games had realistic car crashes, to where you could total the car hitting a fire hydrant at 15 mph, or if your supercar hits a streetlight at 150 mph, it literally twists and wraps around it. THAT would be cool.

  4. Alan Cocconi, founder of AC Propulsion, demonstrated vehicle to grid technology in the 1990s. It’s nothing new. However, if it is to be economically viable, a battery with a high cycle life must be used in order to keep costs down. The wrong type of battery could easily induce more battery wear and tear per kWh of electricity sold than could be recovered by selling the electricity. The electricity sold via this method should really come at a premium to account for the wear and tear of the battery.

    The good news is that there are EV-appropriate battery chemistries that can mitigate this cost to a great degree, LiFePO4 being a favorite of mine.

    1. I’m more than a little frustrated by all this focus on V2G.

      Why don’t they just set up a bank of Edison batteries and be done with it?

      Simple: they’re trying to push some of their costs onto the consumer. Instead of a large investment in a stationary battery farm that should last 30 years or more, they’re looking at ways to draw value out of their own consumers’ investments in automotive traction batteries.

  5. “Utility Electric Service Rules need to be accessible and easy to understand. Many of the utilities already have their rule book available online; however, it may not be easy to find or interpret.”

    Good luck with this pipe dream. Despite being a utility pretty much necessary for life, electricity generators and every major grid operator is a privately owned, for-profit monopoly. What, you think you’re actually buying electricity from Random Reseller that promises 80% renewable sources? That electrons are earmarked for your house alone? lolno.
    The whole fucking point of “deregulation” was to make it convenient to maximize profits at the expense of consumers, and to make the rules not only completely incomprehensible, but able to be changed on a whim. Go read your “contract.” There’s a provision in there saying that the ‘supplier’ can change the terms any time they like, with or without your consent.
    And those private monopolies are not even a little shy about quite literally taking hostages – see also FirstEnergy. They outright said (while bribing the governor of Ohio and cast of his other cronies) that if they did not get their permanent bailout and an extra $2B+/year in profit, they would absolutely ensure that Ohio would see constant prolonged blackouts.

    And consequently, let’s say you’re a net generator (putting power back into the grid regardless of system/method) in Ohio. You get – let me check my notes here – to wade through a ‘Consumer Counsel’ telling you that solar is too expensive and bad for the environment, absolutely zero tax incentives, a significant increase in property taxes, and net credit at half rate only. You pay $0.12/kWh, you get credit off your bill only at a rate of less than $0.05/kWh. Which can’t apply to the FirstEnergy bribes and ransom, so you’re still paying over $40 a month.
    But hey, if you run a surplus every single month for 12 months consecutively (meaning you can’t have any months where you don’t have a surplus,) you can legally request a check for the money you’re owed. You won’t ever get it because they know the law won’t be enforced, but you can at least complain about it.

    And that’s the shit GM is going up against. GM has money, but GM is not a monopoly holding entire states hostage with very literal nuclear blackmail. (They seriously said “give us our bailout or we’ll just completely abandon a nuclear plant, and it’ll be on you to pay to keep it from melting down.”) So best of luck to them, but they are not going to get anywhere at all.

    “For context, it’s typical for leases to come with 12,000 included miles per year; a lower-mileage lease costs less each month, as the vehicle depreciates less and thus is worth more when it’s turned back in.”

    Sigh. Some automotive journalists really should not have a job. (Not you, the first source journalists.) For fuck’s sake, 10,000/year leases have been the default at many manufacturers for over 5 years. 3/36 is long dead. My last lease was 39/30,000 (rounded up from 29,250.) Yes, 39 months, 9000/year. Everything I’ve seen advertised for years now is 10k per year, and anywhere from 24 months to 48 months (yes, 48 month leases. Worst idea ever.)
    When the new car warranty was 3/36, tying leases to mileage made sense, because lessees will absolutely cut corners on out of warranty work. The point of a lease car at end of term was slap a set of tires on it and call it Certified Pre-Owned, because you had a known quantity.
    But when your new car has a 5 year, 50k bumper to bumper, why wouldn’t you extend the lease length? And if drivers are putting less miles on it, why wouldn’t you offer options? Back then, 9k was the lowest option available, but GM was happy to write me a lease at quite literally any number between 9,000 and 20,000 per year. I could have gone with 10k, 12,345, 9,999; it’s just a number they plug in for the actuary to determine deprecation and residuals.

    Which is also why I don’t see many manufacturers following Nissan here. The whole point of the mileage is to do two simple things. One, to absolutely soak the shit out of people who ignore it and go 10k over. Almost all of those customers roll that negative equity into a new lease or loan. It’s cheaper to buyout the lease than to pay some of those penalties. Two, to calculate the value of the vehicle at the point it is turned in, which is used to calculate all of the other lease terms.
    It’s actually very, very complicated actuarial tables involved, and a fair amount of guesswork on depreciation. Maybe the car depreciates 30%, maybe it’s 50%. Get that significantly wrong, and you can put hundreds of millions of dollars at risk. (Case in point, my last lease, GM’s math was so bad they were over $6k underwater on the residual if I’d taken buyout. I almost did just to flip it.) Offering random mileage doesn’t work. You need to have a fixed scale (a la GMAC) so you can just move a slider.

    And offering only 5k/year is a very obvious extreme risk, sub-prime move. 5k/year moves the monthly needle very significantly. Even years ago, 9k to 12k was nearly a hundred bucks a month. Going from 10k to 5k, you’re likely talking about taking subprime from $400/month to $200/month. And this can’t possibly have anything to do with the absolutely skyrocketing default and repo rates.

    “With that in mind, I’d love to ask what your favorite arcade racing game is.”

    I very much liked Test Drive Unlimited 2, but I’m weird like that.

  6. Since the Rogue Sport is on its way out, I would think the Kicks would be added before long to the lease program.

    The whole subscription type leasing model didn’t really take off here (albeit it was more luxury brands) but this seems potentially more practical for more people? Surely a future EV adoption element in there too. Honda specifically mentioned a shorter 2 year lease option on the new CR-V Hybrid in some states with the goal of transitioning those lessees to the Prologue in the future. Lessees in this program would potentially be easier sells into an EV down the line as more models/availability are out there, since they drive less and might be easier to overcome the objection around range anxiety/charging.

  7. Burnout 3 was such a fun game. That soundtrack was pretty killer too. It introduced me to The Mooney Suzuki. Still, I have to say that Forza is still my favorite racing game. It may not have the over-the-top zaniness of Burnout, but it made me want to play it more. Burnout was an unplug your brain and play game. Forza engages you to make you try to improve. And just as you start to get used to it, you progress to a new series of races and class of cars that causes you to keep making adjustments to how you play. Having your friends’ cars show up on your game even if they aren’t online and it’s being run by an AI copying their play style is fun too. A friend gave me hell because my car bumped him off the track and cost him a race even though it wasn’t even me. Damn that was funny.

  8. In my mind, for arcade racing fun, it doesn’t get any better than Cruisin’ USA. Cruisin’ World is cool, too, with its ability to link more machines together for a bigger group to play, but “USA” remains my favorite.

    For at-home gaming, I prefer the games that fudge the realism a little bit. I know that everybody loves Gran Turismo, but I couldn’t even complete a single lap. I just couldn’t keep the thing under control, tank-slapping the whole way down the track. Need For Speed II was my favorite “real” racing game, but Mario Kart and its many clones (shoutout Crash Team Racing) are my favorite video games full-stop.

  9. Need For Speed VRally has a special place in my heart as it’s how I learned to drive on gravel: I’d practice the Scandinavian Flick on-screen, then take my buddy’s Paseo out and work on it in the real world. Sadly, they have since fully paved that road.

    Grand Turismo 3 is what I play, tho: it’s the only reason I even have a TV. Bonus with GT3 is that I have my actual car in garage there-and modding it in the game prompted me to work on the weight & suspension in real life instead of adding massive turbo & exhaust like most seem to do with a wrx

  10. the ‘sending power back to the grid’ thing is a complete pipe dream.

    years ago, i talked in-depth with a customer that did it out in farmland. he had the extra space for a large array. it made sense for him being so far out on an aging electrical system. power outages were common, so having a backup system was a significant benefit to his household to have enough power to run heat in the winter to keep pipes from freezing.

    after he got the system up and running, he decided it wouldn’t hurt to sell power back. at least get something for all that money he spent.

    the utility lol’ed, and told him if he wanted to sell power back, he’d need to become a commercial electrical customer, which bills power used at something nearing 4x’s the consumer rate, while he would get about 1/16th of that rate back for every W/h he sent into the grid. obviously, solar doesn’t have that significant of gains over every 24 hour period, so he left it.

    he finally just let whole thing go as-is. as he put it, “many days my power is free, some days it’s cheap. but i don’t make anything on it other than being more reliable than the power lines that come out here.”

    it was honestly a really abysmal conversation with someone that had a passion and interest in the subject, but was let down at the very end. like talking with someone that had just finished completely restoring an austin healy, only for them to say say, “yeah, i guess it’s good enough to get groceries in from time to time if my 2005 chevy malibu doesn’t start”

  11. Gonna out myself as Old here but:

    Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer. I put an embarrassing number of hours on that game. It had a million characters, each with their own pod racer, and a bunch of stats that you could improve by wrenching on your vehicle. Plus, the durability mechanic sometimes meant you’d be five races deep into a cup and having to make the tough choices for what to bring with you into the next race. Like, yeah that thrust coil would give old Neva Kee or Teemto Pagalies a bit more kick for that next race, but you’ve only got so many truguts and your repulsorlift system’s on its last legs – can you slide well enough to make up for it? Just don’t crash?

    Plus, that game was HARD. The Abyss track where you’re on a Bespin-like gas giant was absolutely murderous, and it walled me for a week when I first encountered it.

    Anyways. If any racing game needs a proper remake, it’s this one.

    1. That game was legit. I had a friend who let me borrow their force feedback joystick, and it made the game so much more stressful. Each “gear” that you hit, the joystick pushed back on you with more and more force to make it harder to go faster. It’d even respond to bumps and crashes, where it’d deflect certain directions, or everywhere if you wiped out.

  12. Not sure if this counts, but Beam.NG Drive is good, silly fun. I appreciate games where I can watch my mistakes collapse around me in full physical detail (see: KSP). Although it’s a little aimless, it’s got so much to play with that it’s a great game to pick up when I have only a few minutes to spare. Plus, it’s got trains, planes, and automobiles! What more could you ask for?

    1. Yes. I will be getting a computer to run “Beam NG”, to use in conjunction with the game “Automation: The Car Company Tycoon Game”. It lets you design your own cars, and takes a fairly realistic approach. It’s an excellent simulation tool for home brew car designs as there are files that users have created to replicate real-world engines including BSFC maps that are a close fit to their real-world counterparts.

      These two games could be used as a foundation to create vehicles for my own open world Mad Max-inspired RPG with more of an emphasis on realism when it comes to vehicle dynamics, shooting, and melee combat.

      1. I only have beamng so I have only played around with automation vehicles other people have made, but all of them have been incredibly unrealistic from a physics standpoint compared to ones made for bng. Unsure if this is an issue with automation or the people using it but just something to note.

  13. Call me a selfish bastard, but the idea that me the middle-class person is going to support the grid by putting wear and tear on one of the most expensive items (behind a house, and potentially college for kids) I’ll every buy? Yeah, no thanks. Maybe the grid operators and power generators can dip into their profits.

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