GE revs up EV market with mega-order

GM has emerged as the winner of the world’s largest single order for electric vehicles (EV) after engineering giant General Electric (GE) placed an order for thousands of Chevrolet Volts.

Following the announcement last month from GE chief executive Jeff Immelt that the company was preparing the world’s largest order of EVs, GE confirmed yesterday that it will convert at least half of its 30,000-strong global fleet to electric cars and will partner with fleet customers to deploy a total of 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015.

The energy giant will initially buy 12,000 GM vehicles, beginning with the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt in 2011, and will add other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle portfolios.

The order will significantly boost the emerging EV automaker market, but it is also expected to increase GE’s own profits.

The conglomerate hopes the order will deliver up to $500m (£312m) in revenue over the next three years to its businesses including its Capital Fleet Services, Energy and Licensing and Trading division. It will also provide a boost to the company’s plans to provide charging infrastructure and other smart grid technology.

“This is good business for GE,” Immelt said in a statement. “We’re in this to earn a good return for our investors and there are many ways GE can participate in the electric vehicle market.”

Commenting on the order, Frederick W Smith, chief executive of delivery firm FedEx and member of the industry body Electrification Coalition, said the order will help to reduce overheads and improve the image of EVs.

“By buying these vehicles, GE is helping ramp up production which will help lower the price of vehicles and their components and will make electric vehicles more visible and acceptable to the public at large,” he said.

GE also announced it will establish so-called EV “customer experience and learning centres” to provide customers, employees and researchers with access to electric cars and related technologies.

The first will be located near Detroit, as part of GE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Centre and the second will be at GE Capital’s Fleet Services business headquarters in Minnesota. Several other centres will be announced next year.

As well as allowing people to test drive a range of EVs, the centres will assess vehicle performance and charging behaviours, driver experiences, service requirements and operational efficiencies.

The news will come as a major boost to GM, which has invested heavily in developing the Volt and is on track to launch the car next year

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