Confirming CEO Jeffrey Immelt’s promise to convert half its sales and service fleet to battery power, General Electric says it will purchase 12,000 Chevrolet Volts and will acquire a total of 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015.
While a growing number of fleet customers have begun exploring the use of battery-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids – like Volt – which promise to significantly reduce fuel and maintenance costs, this is by far the single-largest commitment ever made to the new technology. In fact, GE’s plans will significantly exceed the number of Chevy Volts General Motors had planned to build all next year.
The move underscores the possibility that it will be fleet buyers, rather than retail customers, who dominate the market for battery propulsion, at least in the near-term, suggest industry experts.
But the GE announcement isn’t intended to be altruistic. Not only does the company say it expects to save money on energy costs but, by helping spur the development of the nascent battery car market, General Electric believes it will build a business for itself.