General Motors and OnStar will trial smart grid systems for electric vehicles this year, paving the way, they said, for utilities to increase energy efficiency and offer lower charging costs to customers.

Starting this quarter, hundreds of employees of regional utilities will drive leased Chevrolet Volts as their everyday vehicles and participate in the pilot.

Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of planning and business development, said, "In contrast to other OEMs who are only talking about smart grid technology, we're moving beyond research and development projects to a programme in the real world. Through this pilot we will see real-time results on how intelligent energy management can maximise EV charging efficiency and minimise the electric bill for EV drivers."

Many utility companies throughout the United States have implemented programmes where customers opt in to allow the utility to stop and start their home air conditioning units as needed when electricity demand is high. The customer benefit from this service is a lower electricity bill. OnStar's smart grid claims to build on this concept.

Through the OnStar Advanced Telematics Operations Management System (ATOMS), a utility will be able to accurately monitor and manage the energy used by the vehicles. The data will give the utility information on where and when EVs are charged, plus demand response, which allows the utility to reduce peak demand by shifting EV charging to non-peak hours.