SAN FRANCISCO - GE is introducing the GE WattStation, an electric vehicle charger designed to help accelerate the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.

The GE WattStation will be commercially available globally in 2011. GE will unveil a specialized home version of the charger later this year.

GE said its WattStation cuts the time needed for vehicle charging and, using smart grid technology, allows utility companies to manage the impact of electric vehicles on the local and regional grids.

"Widespread electric vehicle adoption depends on having charging stations that integrate the need for quick charging with the personal need for easy functionality," said Steve Fludder, vice president of GE ecomagination. "GE WattStation will meet this challenge."

The company said the charger "combines functionality with consumer-friendly form from renowned industrial designer Yves Behar." On average, the WattStation decreases electric vehicle charging time from 12-18 hours to as little as four to eight hours compared to standard charging "level 1," assuming a full-cycle charge for a 24 kWh battery, GE said.

Dan Heintzelman, president and CEO GE Energy Services, called the product "a natural progression in our commitment to creating cutting-edge innovation for the next century."

In addition to the GE WattStation, GE recently announced two new partnerships to advance electric vehicle adoption. Project Get Ready, a non-profit initiative led by Rocky Mountain Institute to help communities prepare for electric vehicles, in April named GE a technical advisor. The company is focusing on design and planning of the local and regional electric grids for electric vehicles.

In May, GE Global Research and Nissan signed a three-year agreement to explore new technologies that are needed to build a reliable smart-charging infrastructure.