The Opportunity for GE in Electric Cars

Electric car made from batteries
Electric car made from batteries

General Electric, particularly Jeffrey Immelt, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, has created a massive ripple in the electric car market when he announced that the power company has placed an order to General Motors, the makers of the Chevy Volt, totaling 12,000 units. This he said was in accordance with the company’s aim to have a full electric vehicle fleet of 25,000.

The company is vigorously pushing for the electric vehicle program for its fleet and now new electric vehicles, not just from GM are starting to fill the company’s parking lots. A new internal memo sent out said that employees who opt out of the electric vehicle fleet program and instead use a personal vehicle, GE would not be reimbursing the cost for the vehicle being used for business purposes.

The company would reward those participating in the program, allowing them to charge into the company account for charging station costs and the Volt recharging portion of their monthly electricity bills.

This begs the question on why the company is so vigorous in pushing electric cars to its employees. One reason and probably the most important one is that GE would be able to save money in the long run. It has been proven time and again that electric car fleets would be more economically efficient compared to internal combustion engine vehicles. Current figures put running costs of plug in cars at one fifth to one third the running costs of gasoline powered vehicles.

Another major factor though, why it is still money, it serves the benefit of the company’s investors. This is because GE has a major stake in the market of electric vehicles and not just the electric cars per se. The first play that the company makes is in the construction of electric vehicle charging stations, with its flagship GE WattStation that can fully recharge vehicles in as low as four hours. The company is also one of the largest shareholders of battery maker A123 Systems and the company is finding many other ways to promote the electric car and its attendant infrastructure.

It is entering into many partnerships, such as Nissan on how to promote adoption of electric cars and with EV company Better Place to allow GE charging stations to become compatible with Better Place’s infrastructure. Clearly, the market is on the upswing and GE wants to have a bigger slice of the pie not as a direct participant in producing electric cars but in the support systems that makes this vehicle a success in the long run.