Green

Chevy Volt gets its own smartphone app — even before it hits showrooms

Even before the first Chevy Volt — General Motor’s heavily-hyped plug-in vehicle — has rolled into the showroom, the green car already has a smartphone application to go along with it. Using the Consumer Electronic Show as its springboard, the automaker has unveiled apps for the iPhone, Droid and Blackberry Storm, allowing drivers to tap into sources of information and even a vehicle remote control via the OnStar System.

Let’s say you are the average Chevy Volt driver, having gotten the car sometime this year after its launch. When you download the app, you will instantly have the ability to see how charged your car’s battery pack is at any given time; to tell the car only to charge during certain off-peak times of day to save money on electric bills; to receive text messages or emails if your car isn’t plugged in or has reached a full charge; to program the car’s interior temperature using its heating and air conditioning systems; and to view historical data about your Volt’s mileage and distance traveled. This is pretty swanky stuff.

The application, officially released by OnStar, is all part of a fairly genius marketing campaign devised by GM. The car’s success depends largely on the automaker’s ability to not only ramp up the publicity, but to make the car seem like the futuristic, holistic, thoroughly green masterpiece its most avid followers expect it to be. Launching a smartphone component accomplishes both these goals — demonstrating that the car and the company are web 2.0 savvy and serious about demonstrating its mileage and electric engine specs.

A few other cool features: Taking a page from car-sharing service Zipcar’s playbook, the app will also be able to lock and unlock car doors remotely, as well as flash the headlights and blow the Volt’s horn. This should make it much easier for people to locate their cars in dark parking garages, not to mention check whether their doors are locked or not after they’re already far away from the car (always a frustration).

It’s unclear whether the app will work on the Nexus One, the iPod Touch, other Blackberries or the Palm Pre. We’re guessing not, since the announcement was very specific about the iPhone, Droid and Blackberry Storm. But these iterations are probably forthcoming.

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This is the second big Volt-related announcement this week, and it’s only Tuesday. Yesterday, General Motors announced that its Michigan plant dedicated to manufacturing Volt battery packs has officially come online — making GM the first major automaker to jump into the advanced battery business so far.

You can download a trial iPhone version of the OnStar app here starting today, and view demos of all the different handsets here. Apparently, the real deal will be launched by OnStar at the same time that the Volt finally goes to market late this year. In the meantime, here’s a walkthrough of the application on a Motorola Droid:

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