GE Plans to Buy 25,000 Electric Vehicles
By Chris Haak
Giant industrial conglomerate General Electric has announced plans to purchase 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015 for its fleet. These purchases represent fully one-half of GE’s corporate fleet, and are an immediate shot in the arm for EV demand in the US.
Though there are certainly environmental benefits to be seen through a large purchase of [tailpipe] emission-free vehicles, the move is not purely altrustic on GE’s part. The company obviously gets a considerable amount of goodwill from stepping up to the plate and becoming an early adopter of EV technology.
But perhaps more importantly, GE stands to gain considerably down the road if EVs receive widespread consumer and fleet acceptance. You see, GE makes technology that, in the company’s words, “touches every point of the electric vehicle infrastructure.” So not only does GE use something that it makes, but exposing at least 25,000 of its employees to EVs through daily use, not to mention countless customers, the company can accelerate the adoption curve that EV technology is working on. Accelerating adoption means that GE sells more EV infrastructure, and that it makes more money.
Standing to gain from this announcement immediately, General Motors will supply nearly half of the promised 25,000 EVs by selling 12,000 Chevrolet Volts to GE in 2011. That 12,000 unit order makes up about a quarter of GM’s planned 60,000-unit Volt production slated for 2011. It makes it more likely that GM will hit its Volt sales targets for the first full year, but also means that it may be even harder for retail consumers to find and purchase a Volt anytime soon.
As other manufacturers expand their EV offerings, GE plans to purchase cars from them as well. One soon-to-be entrant in the EV space isFord (with an electric Transit Connect and electric Focus), plus BMW’s MINI-E and Daimler’s smart forttwo electric drive. EV pioneer Tesla plans its Model S EV sedan and Fisker’s Karma, though most other manufacturers’ EV. We can’t forget about Nissan, which has its Leaf pure EV launching around the same time as the Volt, so I’d anticipate that Nissan will pick up some GE sales as well.
In addition to its own fleet, GE has 65,000 fleet-management customers globally, and the company considers itself to be in a good position to help them to convert and manage their fleets. This news definitely sounds to be favorable for those rooting for the electrification of the automobile. It remains to be seen how retail consumer demand is stimulated by GE’s stimulus. After all, I don’t recall seeing waves of traveling salespeople buying a second Impala for personal use, or seeing waves of plumbers buying Ford Club Wagons for hauling their family around town. It certainly can’t hurt, though, as long as these fleet drivers have good experiences with EVs.