While it’s not quite as true as it once was, the majority of plug-in car drivers we know are the kind of people who closely follow the consumer electronics market, love gadgets, and would feel positively naked without a laptop, smartphone, tablet computer and a decent Internet connection by their side. They are often– as are we — self-confessed geeks.
Knowing many plug-in owners’ predilection for a good Internet connection then, we think that you’ll be pleased to know that as of its 2015 model year, the Chevrolet Volt range extended EV and Chevy Spark all-electric hatchback will come with 4G LTE wireless technology fitted as standard, along with an in-car WiFi hotspot.
Announced yesterday by General Motors ahead at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV., the new feature will enable passengers to surf the Internet, watch videos and check email while the car is driving, provided of course it has access to a 4G LTE signal, of course. The improved data connection should theoretically also improve the speed at which you can remotely connect to the Volt and Spark EV’s on-board telematics system to check state of charge, start charging, precondition the cabin or operate the door locks.
For Spark EV owners with children, the in-car WiFi Internet sharing will no doubt prove a popular way to pass time for the thirty minutes or so it takes the car to recharge from empty to 80 percent full at a compatible CCS quick charge station.
Chevrolet says the 4G LTE Internet connectivity will be introduced by the summer in 2015 model year Corvettes, Impalas, Malibus and Volts, with the Equinox, Silverado, Silvarado HD, Spark, and Spark EV closely following suit.
“We know that our customers rely on being connected on a daily, if not hourly basis, and they expect to be provided with the information and content they desire with no interruptions,” said Mary Chan, president, GM’s Global Connected Consumer. “A 4G LTE hotspot that’s built into a car’s architecture will provide a more consistent and powerful Wi-Fi connection than a smartphone.”
But perhaps more interesting in this instance is the news that the advent of 4G LTE in Chevrolet’s 2015 model year vehicles is the news that its OnStar service — currently in its ninth iteration — will be upgraded as part of the feature. As well as promising that Chevrolet’s tenth-generation OnStar hardware will supercharge the capabilities of GM’s OnStar, there’s even a hint that GM could use the new connection and hardware to send over-the-air updates to cars in a similar way to the method already used by Tesla Motors to update features and software in its luxury Model S electric sedan.
“The built-in 4G LTE connection will allow our vehicles to be updated with the latest software and apps,” said Chan. “This means that the driver’s vehicle infotainment systems can keep getting better after purchase as customers can continue to add on and customize their features.”
GM says it already has a plethora of apps ready to go with the updated MyLink, OnStar and AppShop system, including ones from iHeartRadio, Priceline.com, NPR, The Weather Channel, Slacker Radio, TuneIn Radio, Cityseeker, Eventseeker, Glympse and Kaliki.
There is however, one thing missing at the current time: how much the service will cost when it debuts later this year. Chevrolet’s chosen LTE data provider, AT&T, says that customers will be able to add their vehicle to a shareable bucket of data through its Mobile Share Plans, or pay for data as a standalone feature. Pricing and availability won’t be known until later this year.
We think many EV fans will jump at the chance of fast, reliable Internet in their cars. But given AT&T’s desire to become the first major U.S. operator to allow ‘sponsored’ content in a move described as being ‘a massive barrier’ for online content generators by many net-neturality campaign groups, we’re not sure everyone will want to support the controversial carrier.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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