GE announced the largest-ever single electric vehicle purchase commitment, pledging to deploy 25,000 cars over the next five years, a move that could eventually help move the company into electric trucks as well.
Broad deployment of accompanying technologies, like GE's WattStation charging posts, will bring down cost barriers.
Broad deployment of accompanying technologies, like GE's WattStation charging posts, will bring down cost barriers.

GE will initially purchase 12,000 GM vehicles, beginning with the Chevrolet Volt in 2011, and will add other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle portfolios. Chevrolet Volts will begin rolling off production lines this month and other automakers are bringing electric vehicles to market. As this occurs, GE says it will be in a strong position to assist with deployment of the supporting infrastructure to help its 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets.

Wide-scale electric vehicle use is expected to deliver up to $500 million in near-term business for the company, whose portfolio of product solutions includes charging stations, circuit protection equipment, and transformers used in every part of electric vehicle infrastructure development.

"Electric vehicle technology is real and ready for deployment and we are embracing the transformation with partners like GM and our fleet customers," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. "By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action."

Among the barriers to broad adoption of electric vehicles is cost. GE's initiative will improve production scale, and eventually drive costs down, points out, FedEx chairman, president and CEO, and Electrification Coalition member Fred Smith.

"With more than 16.3 million vehicles in operation in 2009, the nation's fleet can drive initial ramp-up scale in the battery industry and OEM supply chains. By buying these vehicles, GE is helping ramp up production which will help lower the price of vehicles and their components and make electric vehicles more visible and acceptable to the public at large," Smith said.

GE also announced two electric vehicle customer experience and learning centers to provide customers, employees and researchers first-hand access to electric vehicles and developing technologies. One will be located outside of Detroit, in Van Buren Township, Mich.,, as part of GE's Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center. The other will be located at GE Capital's Fleet Services business headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn. Several other centers will be announced in 2011. The centers will monitor and evaluate vehicle performance and charging behaviors, driver experiences, service requirements, and operational efficiencies, while also affording the opportunity to experience a variety of manufacturers and models.

Initially, GE will focus on sedans, but the company is looking at options for medium-duty vehicles as well.

"GE currently has 4,500 minivans and 4,500 light trucks on the road in the U.S, so there is an opportunity to add light and medium electric trucks to the existing fleet," a spokesperson told "We also plan to have electric vans and trucks at our customer experience centers in Eden Prairie and Detroit so that our customers can test drive and learn more about these types of vehicles from our fleet services experts and other professionals from GE."

More info at GE's Ecomagination website.