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GE will invest in electric cars to boost charging equipment sales

November 12th, 2010

From Green Right Now Reports

General Electric will invest in newcomers like the Volt to help spur charging station sales.

Hoping to help spark demand for its own charging equipment, General Electric Co. plans to buy 25,000 electric vehicles from makers including General Motors over the next five years. GE hopes the move will speed acceptance of electric cars by getting more of them on road more quickly, prompting investment in the equipment that users will need to charge them.

The company already has unveiled a car charger it calls the WattStation and also owns a stake in battery maker A123 Systems. GE estimates that it could generate $500 million in electric vehicle-related revenue over the next three years.

General Electric aims to replace half of its fleet of 30,000 cars with electric vehicles and to start shifting customers who lease fleets of vehicles over as well. GE plans to buy 12,000 vehicles from GM, including its forthcoming Chevrolet Volt, as well as from other makers as they launch electric cars. Nissan is rolling out an electric car this year, the LEAF.

The volume could help manufacturers of cars and batteries drive their costs down more quickly, observers said.

“By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action,” GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said.

The pricey high-powered batteries used in electric vehicles make them an expensive initial investment. (The Volt, which also has a gasoline engine to extend its range, carries a $41,000 sticker price before a $7,500 government subsidy.) Corporate users, however, focus more on the long-term costs of operating a vehicle.

Having large numbers of plug-ins in operation could also help validate manufacturers’ projections of how long their vehicles will be able to travel on a single charge. GM estimates the Volt will travel 40 miles on a single charge, while Nissan says the Leaf will run for 100 miles on a charge.

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