General Electric has announced that it plans to convert half of its 30,000 worldwide fleet of vehicles to GE electric vehicles. To achieve this, it will purchase 12,000 Chevrolet Volts. GE will get an initial order of 1,000 Volts in mid to late 2011 and then receive 2,000 to 3,000 Volts each year until 2015. GE also said that it plans to purchase 25,000 plug-in electric cars by 2015, including vehicles from other manufacturers besides Chevrolet.
General Electric is already a major player in the electric car market. It manufactures charging stations for EVs and will create electric vehicle customer experience and learning centers to give customers, employees and researchers access to electric vehicle technology. In addition, the centers will monitor and study EV performance and charging procedures, driver experience, service requirements and operational performance. Within the next three years, the electric product innovator plans to earn $500 million from the electric vehicle market. The company is also providing financing to Better Place for the development of battery exchange stations and it owns shares of A123 Systems, a manufacturer of batteries for electric vehicles.
Analysts say that the purchases of the Volts by GE is significant because it will help to drive sales of the Volt and assist GM to offset the cost of developing new technologies that make the electric car possible. Analysts point out that automakers probably will not make money out of the new technologies as they initially start selling the vehicles, but that a big purchase like GE's will help accelerate their return on investment. Analysts also say that fleet sales can help reduce the cost of advance battery development. It is expected that fleets will use more than 20 percent of battery manufacturing capacity by 2015.