At a Beverly Hills mansion, where an electric truck is your only source of power

Last week, General Motors summoned a small group of journalists to a Beverly Hills mansion to witness the future of home energy. And it started with a preemptive blackout. 

As sunset fell across the Hollywood Hills, the chief engineer from General Motors flipped a breaker and disconnected the five-bedroom home from the grid. The lights went out, and less than 20 seconds later, GM’s home system powered it back up, pulling just 5kW or less from the fully charged Chevy Silverado EV parked in the garage.  

When the lights came back on, the small crowd of journalists and GM Energy employees clapped, as if they were experiencing electricity for the first time.

When the lights came back on, the small crowd clapped, as if experiencing electricity for the first time

While a pickup truck may be an unusual site in the tony neighborhood, the company wanted to show off how its new energy subsidiary, GM Energy, can power an entire home using nothing but the Silverado as a mobile generator. GM wanted to demonstrate the new features of its vehicle-to-home (V2H) energy products at a splashy if mostly sterile mansion in the excessively wealthy Los Angeles enclave.

(In case you’re house hunting, the uber-lux Beverly Hills mansion that hosted GM’s demo is currently for sale for nearly $25 million — and is also rumored to have once belonged to Rat Pack member Dean Martin.) 

Before the event, GM Energy installed a bidirectional charger, which the company calls the GM Energy PowerShift Charger, as well as its own V2H Enablement kit, which includes a power inverter, a home hub that includes a computer system that manages the loads through the house, and a backup battery. The full kit retails for $12,699, but buyers can opt for the individual components at the same price. 

Using GM Energy’s equipment, the 10,000-square-foot mansion ran exclusively on battery power from the fully charged 215kWh Ultium battery pack underpinning the new Silverado EV for a few hours on a Thursday evening for the event. 

The house, once owned by Dean Martin, is for sale for $25 million.
Image: Abigail Bassett

But one couldn’t help but be struck by some of the cognitive dissonance on display. Amid cooling demand and flagging sales for EVs, automakers like GM are increasingly trying to market their plug-in cars as something like a Swiss Army knife for the electrical grid. The aim is to entice consumers into spending more on an EV to get access to all these extra features unavailable to anyone driving a car that runs on fossil fuels.  

The home ran off the Silverado EV for the rest of the night, powering more than 50 overhead lights inside, music throughout, the kitchen where a full chef’s staff continued to turn out hot hors-d’oeuvres for guests, and exterior lighting that ran all the way down the 200-foot long driveway. 

While EV technology opens up a number of new and innovative benefits for the consumer, and there are plenty of benefits to creating V2H systems for EVs, the clean energy market has put up somewhat mixed financial results in recent months. Still, GM remains bullish and barreling ahead with a team hired from private equity, climate tech, and more. 

“This is truly unlocking the potential of GM’s electric vehicle lineup”

“This is truly unlocking the potential of GM’s electric vehicle lineup,” said Wade Sheffer, VP of GM Energy. “Having that technology, in that garage, prepared to do what it’s doing right now, raises this property’s valuation even more.”

“If you put one of these GM Home systems in every single customer’s home, you can create a decentralized grid,” added William Hotchkiss, head of safety and supplier quality, purchasing, and supply chain. “You can start to make it a connected network so that you can manage demand, and everyone will have more reliability.” 

The full kit from GM Energy retails for over $12,000.
Image: Abigail Bassett

GM launched GM Energy in 2022 as a way to compete in the growing home energy market and has plans to sell additional equipment, including the Power Bank or stationary home battery system. 

The automaker is no stranger to dabbling in areas that seem incongruent with its core automobile business. It made mechanical hearts in the 1950s and, more recently, respirators during the covid-19 pandemic

Yet, in an era when EV sales have not grown as quickly as many automakers had anticipated, questions remain about whether it makes good business sense to get into home energy. The market isn’t small, but it’s not exactly growing, with current estimates putting its worth at around $150 billion. 

Questions remain about whether it makes good business sense to get into home energy

Other automakers have also sensed an opportunity. Tesla touted its energy business, which includes home chargers, stationary batteries, and solar panels, as a bright spot during last month’s earnings call. The company recently announced that it would start rolling out bidirectional charging in 2025. In the home battery and solar installation market, Tesla dominates.

Hyundai offers its own home energy integration, which includes solar panels and battery storage, alongside its EVs like the Ioniq 5 and 6, which have bidirectional charging. But the automaker has said it’s more focused on vehicle-to-grid power over vehicle-to-home.

GM is taking a similar approach and partnering with Qmerit to help homeowners install their GM Energy technology. The company says that its new “holistic” home system will “help accelerate EV adoption. 

As Sheffer put it during our interview, “General Motors simply believes we’re going to have mass adoption of EVs, and we’re going to invest in the whole ecosystem. We’re a separate company within the company, so General Motors invested in us to deliver all of the pieces of that possible.”

Currently, the Chevy Silverado EV is GM’s only vehicle with V2H capabilities.
Image: Abigail Bassett

While the Silverado EV is the only current vehicle that has this V2H ability, eventually GM’s other electric vehicles, including the GMC Sierra EV Denali, Chevy Equinox and Blazer EVs, and Cadillac Lyriq, will get it, too, either via an over-the-air or dealer-installed update. 

While these features are similar to those already offered on the Ford F-150 Lightning, GM is promising to make it more accessible to the masses. Its plan is to transform its complete lineup of EVs to enable V2H capabilities. But at launch, there are no plans to open the system up to third parties.  

For example, the GM Home kit is currently not compatible with other EVs, including the Honda Prologue, which also gets GM’s Ultium battery. According to executives at last week’s event, there are no current plans to change that until ISO standards change. 

“Right now, GM Energy offers the most comprehensive home charge ecosystem on the market, bar none,” Sheffer said. “Once we had the power bank and connection to solar, stop the tires.”

“Once we had the power bank and connection to solar, stop the tires”

Hotchkiss and Sheffer also confirmed that there are no current plans for GM to get into the solar panel manufacturing or installing business right now, given how fraught the space can be. (The company previously said it would work with third-party solar providers, like Sun Power.) Plans to allow customers to sell excess energy back to the grid are still in the works, according to Sheffer, noting that GM is currently piloting some smaller programs with utilities across the nation. 

These backup power systems essentially provide microgrids for communities and homeowners looking to insulate themselves from blackouts due to extreme weather resulting from climate change. 

As the world heats up and climate change stretches the electrical grid closer to its limits, consumers are increasingly looking for ways to ensure they still have access to reliable power. Since EVs spend the majority of their time parked in home garages and plugged in, GM sees an opportunity to leverage those parked EVs for power storage. The demonstration last week shows what that might look like.

Politics are also at play in the energy space. As demand for electricity grows, coal plants close, and more solar and wind power come online, some politicians and critics of clean power see the potential for a power reliability crisis to increase. By providing a way for people to power their homes when the grid goes down, GM says it is opening new opportunities for individual consumers. And with Tesla’s polarizing CEO Elon Musk increasingly alienating some of his most loyal potential customers, GM offers a less “political” alternative. 

It also turns out that consumers want these kinds of features from their EVs, at least according to a recent study by JD Power. The study found that over a third of EV owners said they were interested in bidirectional charging as a way to make money by selling power back to the grid and to help balance peak electrical demands. 

While it’s still very early days for GM Energy and its suite of new features supporting V2H support, executives are positive about the future of the venture. “GM is an automobile company, pulling from the grid. It only makes sense that we have the whole ecosystem,” Sheffer said. “That’s why GM said we’re going to pioneer this. If we don’t start, nobody is ever going to get there. So here we go.” 

This was no temporary solution, either. GM executives promised that the mansion could run for three to four days at that level of consumption before fully depleting the battery. When I left at around 9:30PM, the charge on the Silverado EV had only dropped by 1 percent.