Thursday, October 28, 2010

GE to Order "Tens of Thousands" of Electric Vehicles

Biggest order in history. It may take a while to fill.

General Electric Co. may jump-start the electric-vehicle industry with an order that Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt said will be the largest in history.

GE, whose power-generation equipment provides a third of the world’s electricity, will order “tens of thousands” of the vehicles in about a week, Immelt said yesterday in a speech in London, without giving a total or identifying a manufacturer.

“This is a huge step up,” said Brett Smith, a vehicle technology analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It’s the biggest order to date I’m aware of, by a lot.”

Immelt wants half of the sales fleet of 45,000 to be electric. The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf both have limited production through 2011, and are already looking at demand outstripping supply (with some price gouging occurring as a result). Ford has the Transit Van and is planning an electric Focus, but they and most major car manufacturers won't have full production until 2012. So, it may take some time before Immelt receives delivery on his order, but it's great to see the corporate demand.

GE is investing in itself, of course, selling many of the products surrounding these cars and renewable energy in general, but isn't that the idea?

GE is investing $10 billion over the next five years in clean energy across its business lines, including power- transmission software and so-called smart-grid technologies. Its products include lithium-ion batteries for cars and trucks via a venture with A123 Systems Inc. and sodium-based batteries for use in large vehicles such as locomotives.

That spending creates jobs, Immelt told executives at an event sponsored by the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

“GE has been one of the biggest players in this game and certainly has a lot to gain from the electric vehicle,” Smith said. “They’ve really truly tried to push this hard to get things going, and it seems to be a core corporate value.”

Good for them. And us. Immelt has repeatedly said that he wants to see more manufacturing in America, and that we should concentrate on increasing our exports. And don't forget, GE has also invested in Michigan to the tune of a $100 million dollar tech center near Detroit that is doing R & D on next generation manufacturing of renewable energy, jet engines, gas turbines and other high-technology products, bringing some 1,200 jobs to the state.

GE is certainly bringing some good things to our life. They have been guilty of the outsourcing problem in the past, but Immelt is helping to make up for that by putting the money back into us now. Kudos.