The Twin Cities will be getting a good dose of GE’s ecomagination in the form of a state-of-the-art customer experience and learning center for electric vehicles (EVs). The center is being built on the site of GE Capital Fleet Services’ headquarters campus, and joins other ecomagination centers throughout the country showcasing General Electric’s cutting-edge technology.
A gala groundbreaking event was held in late September 2011. The center is scheduled to open sometime during the second quarter of 2012.
The Eden Prairie, Minn., site is the first electric vehicle testing center GE has built, and is a sign of its commitment to fleet sustainability and alternative-fuel technologies. “This isn’t an event — it’s a long-term commitment,” said Deb Frodl, chief strategy officer for GE Capital Fleet Services and global EV leader for GE. “We want to lead the way and help customers make sustainable choices that are right for them.”
The customer experience and learning center for electric vehicles will give fleet managers the opportunity to see and experience electric automobiles and trucks from a variety of manufacturers firsthand and analyze vehicle performance, driver experiences, service requirements, and operational efficiencies. There will be a full range of vehicle types from sedans to medium-duty trucks for fleet managers to evaluate.
“Many customers need to experience the vehicles themselves, and this will allow them to do so in one location,” Frodl explained.
The center will eventually feature alternative-fuel vehicles powered by other energy sources. “We’re starting with EVs because this is so much of GE’s domain expertise; however, because many customers have mixed fleets, they will need to evaluate a full suite of fuel options,” Frodl observed.
The 11,000-square-foot GE customer experience and learning center for electric vehicles will be composed of:
● An education center featuring
classrooms for presentations, training,
and discovery workshops, as well as
● A solar carport and charging center that
can charge up to 11 vehicles
● An experience center and showroom
to help customers evaluate vehicles in
a variety of configurations.
In addition, there will be a private half-mile driving course that will allow customers to experience the vehicles in different driving conditions. Frodl added that fleet managers will also be permitted to take the vehicles on the nearby highway.
Frodl said that the center is designed to be “nimble and flexible” and a fleet manager’s visit will be individualized based on his or her expectations. “The visit will include a customized consultation with one of our fleet experts to discuss how we can help the fleet manager meet his or her sustainability goals,” she explained.
These goals may not just be about vehicles. The fleet consultants will also discuss EV infrastructure, the future of other alternative fuels, and GE Capital Fleet Service’s end-to-end EV deployment solutions.
Frodl noted the center will also conduct research and development, collecting data about electric and other alternative-fuel vehicles.