General Electric Corp. (GE) announced Nov. 11, 2010, it will purchase 25,000 electric vehicles (EVs) by 2015 for its own fleet and global fleet customers. 

Altogether, GE will convert at least half of its 30,000-unit global fleet and will partner with fleet customers to deploy a total of 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015. GE will initially purchase 12,000 GM vehicles, beginning with the Chevrolet Volt in 2011, and said it will add other EVs as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle portfolios. 

"This a global initiative. GE is in a strong position to help deploy the supporting infrastructure to help our 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets," said Deb Frodl, chief strategy officer for GE Capital Fleet Services. Frodl heads the strategy team focusing on GE's electrification initiative. As the chief strategic and product development leader, Frodl is responsible for driving strategy, product development, marketing, and strategic alliances.

GE's Electrification Commitment

GE owns one of the world's largest fleets, in addition to operating a global fleet management business. It also offers a portfolio of EV-related products including charging stations, circuit protection equipment, and transformers, which are integral parts of EV infrastructure development.

"This enables GE to lead wide-scale electric vehicle adoption and generate growth for its businesses," said Frodl.

GE's electrification commitment was spearheaded by Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO. Immelt is also a member of the board of directors for Electrification Coalition, dedicated to reducing U.S. dependence on oil through vehicle electrification. The Electrification Coalition is comprised of 21 CEOs from a variety of businesses.

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

GE businesses, including Capital Fleet Services, Energy, and Licensing & Trading, will benefit from an emerging EV market that could deliver up to $500 million in GE revenue over the next three years. This includes rapidly developing markets for GE's charging station, the WattStation.

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 center will be located outside of Detroit, in Van Buren Township, Mich., as part of GE's Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center. The second center will be located at GE Capital Fleet Services' headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minn., and several additional centers will be announced later this year.

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 and gain insights on electric vehicle deployment. 

Although the customer experience centers are still in the early stages, according to Frodl, they will include a fleet of EVs, charging stations, and a team of electric vehicle experts who will be available to potential and current customers.

GE is launching this EV program as part of its ecomagination business strategy to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology though innovation and R&D investment. In further support of the ecomagination initiative, GE Capital Fleet Services announced that it had co-authored a whitepaper with the Electrification Coalition titled, "The Fleet Electrification Roadmap" on the topic of fleet electrification in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that by 2035, there will be only 5.1 million EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) on the road out of nearly 300 million light-duty vehicles in the U.S., representing less than 1.7 percent of all vehicles. The goal of the Electrification Roadmap, produced by the Electrification Coalition, is to have 14 million grid-enabled light-duty EVs operational in the U.S. by 2020 and more than 120 million EVs by 2030.

"We need business to lead to accomplish this goal," said Frodl. "What better way to lead then with a demonstration and commitment of this size with our own global fleet."

Also, in support of the announcement, an electric vehicle readiness toolkit has been launched on to help municipalities, customers, and individuals prepare for wide-scale electric vehicle deployment.