General Electric plans to buy 25 000 electric vehicles by 2015 for its corporate fleet and to lease to customers, in a move it said could help speed acceptance of the technology.
The largest US conglomerate initially will buy 12 000 vehicles made by General Motors, including the forthcoming Chevrolet Volt. It plans to buy other manufacturers’ electric vehicles as they are introduced.
GE makes equipment for the electric grid that will charge these vehicles and owns a stake in battery maker A123 Systems. It estimated that it could generate $500-million in electric vehicle-related revenue over the next three years.
The cars will go both into GE’s fleet of cars and trucks used by staff and be leased out by a unit of GE Capital that leases cars and other vehicles to businesses, for traveling sales representatives and repair crews, for instance.
“By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action,” said GE CE Jeff Immelt.
The Volt is a plug-in hybrid car, which GM estimates will be able to run for up to 64 km on battery power, but will also have a small gasoline engine to charge the battery over longer trips.
Nissan Motor also is rolling out a plug-in electric car this year, called the Leaf, which it estimates will be able to run for 161 km on a charge.
These cars represent the next generation of vehicle electrification, following on gasoline-electric hybrids such as Toyota Motor Corp’s Prius.
Businesses that use large fleets of vehicles have been embracing these technologies as a way to cut fuel costs, as well as lower their emissions of of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas associated with climate change.
United Parcel Service and FedEx Corp, for instance, have both been phasing hybrids into their fleets of delivery trucks.