Before large swaths of the public are ready to accept electric vehicles, they’ll need to understand them. This isn’t the easiest problem to solve. Last year I cold-called some dealerships around the country and posed a few questions as a totally oblivious shopper; while every salesperson I talked to was generally positive and never tried to push me toward a gas car, they struggled to answer more granular questions, and some even admitted their staff hadn’t yet undergone training around the relevant models.
So, it’s probably a good thing then, that General Motors has opted to take matters into its own hands with a new initiative called EV Live — a website that’s sort of like a hotline for the modern age, where prospective owners can chat one-on-one or in groups with real experts, to ask EV-related questions. Normally, any sort of manufacturer outreach like this wouldn’t typically cross our radar, but the EV knowledge gap is something every automaker must work together to close, and, so long as people actually take advantage of it, something like this could be of benefit.
EV Live began Monday with guided personal tours, where product specialists will show you around one of GM’s EVs while taking your questions. You’ll be able to see the expert and either talk or text chat with them, but they will not be able to see you. The tours are broken up into different categories, like home charging, battery information and how to use public chargers. GM plans to eventually add group tours and prerecorded sessions, the company said in a press release.
The site is live now, and those interested are free to jump on the next available session or schedule one for later. I spoke to a specialist named Steph about on-the-go charging for almost 10 minutes, and the experience was friendly and enlightening. The guides carry smartphones on selfie sticks and tour a studio fitted with vehicles and a range of charging equipment you might use at home or encounter on the road; there are also illustrative cutaway models, to unpack the Ultium architecture and battery tech.
I asked Steph about the difference between Level 1, 2 and DC fast charging, and about the ramifications of fast charging too often. Steph explained that the Ultium software throttles power delivery above 80 per cent to limit heat and stress on the battery, so I needn’t worry. Scepticism of the long term aside, that answer is consistent with GM’s official claims about fast charging, so it was good enough for me. The specialist also sent me a link to Plugshare’s website, and recommended the granularity of its search filters.
Of course most of the conversation on EV Live will revolve around GM’s lineup, but the service is still a decent resource for general EV education. GM’s studio even had a CHAdeMO plug on hand, to simulate what you might see at a public terminal, even though none of its current battery electric cars use that method.
Ultimately, you’ll still go to the showroom to buy your Hummer, Bolt, Blazer or what have you. But in terms of education about EVs and answering those burning questions, EV Live appears to be a pretty solid resource, with individuals who are likely better informed about EVs specifically than most salespeople. And that’s fine; it’s important that people learn, regardless of the forum. The biggest challenge for GM will probably be spreading the word, so people know to actually use it.