General Electric to Buy 25,000 Electric Cars Over Next Five Years

In a bid to promote electric-vehicle adoption, General Electric plans to purchase 25,000 battery-powered vehicles during the next five years for its own use and to lease to commercial customers, the company said Thursday.

GE (GE) said it will convert at least half of its global fleet of 30,000 vehicles and will partner with its fleet customers to deploy the 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, in what the Connecticut-based conglomerate called the largest-ever single electric-vehicle purchase commitment.

The first batch of 12,000 vehicles will come from General Motors, GE said, beginning with the Chevrolet Volt next year. The Volt is slated to begin rolling off assembly lines later this month. GE will later add electric vehicles from other manufacturers as they become available, it said.

Moving the Electric Car from "Anticipation to Action"

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

GE said its expertise in fleet management and products, such as charging stations and circuit-protection equipment, puts it in a strong position to help deploy the infrastructure needed to help its 65,000 customers convert and manage their fleets. Along with its partners, GE will use a mix of electric-vehicle technologies to meet their needs, it said.

The enterprise could generate as much as $500 million in revenue for GE during the next three years, the company said.

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Boosting electric-vehicle use through the use of fleets will help produce the economies of scale needed to reduce the cost of production and purchase of electric vehicles, said FedEx (FDX) Chairman, President and CEO Frederick Smith. The program will also make electric vehicles more visible and acceptable to the public, he said. Smith is a member of the Electrification Coalition, a group of business leaders promoting deployment of electric vehicles.

In connection with its initiative, GE said it will open two learning centers where consumers can learn more about electric vehicles and the technologies used in them. The centers will be situated in suburban Detroit, where GE operates its Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center, and in Eden Prairie, Minn., site of the company's GE Capital Fleet Services business headquarters.

Several other "customer experience" centers will be announced next year, GE said.

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