GE Goes Green with EVs & Melbourne Stages Green Zone Drive

GE Goes Green with EVs & Melbourne Stages Green Zone Drive

“By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action,” said Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and chief executive., who said the company will buy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015. Meanwhile, the world-first Green Zone Drive event in Melbourne last month has been hailed as an overwhelming success.

In The Weekend Australian (13-14 November 2010):

GE will buy 25,000 electric vehicles by 2015, converting at least half of one of the world’s biggest vehicle fleets to mostly electric.

“By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action,” said Jeff Immelt, GE’s chairman and chief executive.

He said electric vehicles could deliver up to $US500 million in revenue for GE in the next three years through sales of its WattStation elecric-car recharger and other products.

The company will initially buy 12,000 Chevrolet Volts, made by General Motors, starting in next year.

GE said it will then add other electric vehicles to its fleet as other car makers expand their offerings.

The company said it is in a “strong position to help its 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets.”

GE plans to buy 1000 Volts next year and 2000 to 3000 per year after that through 2015, GM said.

The purchases will comprise a significant portion of GM’s early Volt production. The car maker has said it planned to build 10,000 Volts in 2011.

A GM spokesman declined to say if the company now intends to build more Volts, but signalled that may be the case.

The GE purchase “won’t reduce the number of Volts available to the public”, he said.

GM has said it will start delivering the Volt to retail customers by the year’s end.

It is designed to travel 40km to 80km on an initial charge before a petrol-powered generator kicks in and makes electricity to drive the wheels. The car has a total range of about 480km.

GE’s announcement leaves room for the conglomerate to buy the 160km range Leaf electric car from Nissan as well as the Ford’s Focus electric expected in 2011 and Toyota’s RAV4 electric, due in 2012.

GE’s plan would be the largest purchase of electric vehicles in North America so far as the company seeks to jump-start an industry from which it could benefit.

EVs are a growing interest for GE, which is trying to shrink its finance division to 30 per cent of its profit and expand its industrial divisions, particularly in clean technologies.

The company has said it will invest $US10 billion in the next five years in products such as wind turbines, vehicle batteries and electricity-grid technology.

GE’s purchase could help car makers such as Nissan, Ford and GM more quickly attain the higher volumes needed to lower the cost of producing electric cars — a linchpin in wider adoption of the technology, said Sam Ori, director of policy for the Electrification Coalition, an organisation of companies that is promoting electric vehicles.

Nissan has the capacity to build 50,000 Leafs each of the next two years. That will rise to 150,000 in 2013 when a new plant is finished in Tennessee.

All of the other companies making electric vehicles are pegging much lower production volumes.

Other US fleet owners have made smaller commitments.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car plans to buy 500 Leafs and 100 electric cars from Coda Automotive.

Frito-Lay said it will buy 176 Smith Electric Vehicles delivery trucks and Johnson Controls, which makes electric-car batteries, plans to buy 20 electric Fords.

But GE’s purchase is dwarfed by the commitment of start-up Better Place – a partner of GE – to buy 100,000 of Renault’s Fluence Ze electric cars for Israel and Denmark.

Better Place plans to do battery swapping for drivers who have expended their charge.

GE, which makes 30 per cent of the world’s power-generation equipment, estimates it could make US10c for every $US1 of electric vehicles sold.

To further that it has made a number of investments and launched partnerships with companies backing electric cars.

GE plans to work with Better Place to develop standards, finance batteries and help fleet- electrification programs.

It has a 10 per cent stake in US-based lithium-ion battery maker A123Systems after investing $US70m.

The company has said it would build, with government assistance, a $US100m plant near Albany, New York, to make batteries for hybrid locomotives and for use in boats, mining trucks and cars.

GE also is investing $US100m to build a research and manufacturing facility outside Detroit to focuses on things like wind turbines and electric-vehicle technology.


27 October 2010

World-first Green Zone Drive Event Hailed a Success.

The world-first Green Zone Drive held in Melbourne in early October has been hailed as an overwhelming success by organisers.

Far in excess of 1000 test-drives of low emission vehicles were completed during the unique, inaugural public awareness event, which took place in Docklands.

The aim was to offer Melburnians a hands-on opportunity to sample a wide array of vehicles and technologies, all of which were existing, ready-to-purchase low emission solutions to their mobility needs.

The website attracted more than 35,000 site views from close to 10,000 unique visitors, keen to find out more about the event as well as book test drives.

The most popular vehicles drivers sought to try were the unique Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the first commercially available zero-emission car offered by a mainstream manufacturer in Australia, and the Toyota Hybrids, including the made-in- Melbourne Hybrid Camry.

In fact, the Green Zone Drive event provided the public with the very first opportunity to drive the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, as well as sample the locally produced Blade Electron Mark V electric vehicle, in real world situations.

The full range of showroom-ready low emission technologies was on offer, from high efficiency petrol and high torque diesel, through to petrol hybrids and full electric vehicles. The range of vehicles on offer included all sizes, from small-to medium vehicles such as Hyundai i20 to luxury cars such as the Audi A5 Sportback, BMW X1, and people movers such as the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso.

Simon Mikedis, RACV Manager Environmental Programs, commented on the event’s success in drawing attention to the practicality and availability of low emission vehicles. He particularly emphasised the contribution they can make to lowering our overall emissions and reducing fuel costs.

“For a long time, RACV has provided advice on greener motoring to its members and the general public. It is fantastic to be able to provide this advice in a tangible manner with Green Zone. The Green Zone Drive was a way to raise awareness in Melbourne of the real-world possibilities that low emission vehicles provide.

“We are pleased to see that so many people checked out the website to seek information, as well as took the time to come along to view our technology display and take a test drive.

“The reactions were uniformly positive. Some testers said they had not realised that such a wide range of low emission vehicles were already on sale in Australia.

“A very high number of test drivers were RACV members, which reinforces the view that our members are not just keen to know more about low emission vehicles, they are ready to give them a go.

“Interestingly, the age split of testers was pretty uniform, with almost as many young drivers as older ones taking part. This indicates a broad level of desire to experience low emission vehicles across the car driving public.

“The 21 test vehicles from 10 manufactures covered a total of 3,720km during the eight day public trial. Emissions from the test were fully offset with thanks to Climate Positive,” Simon said.

“We hope the Green Zone Drive event in Melbourne has prompted more car buyers to seriously consider specifying a low-emission vehicle for their next new car,” said Henry O’Clery, Director of the Low Emission Vehicle Automotive Partnership, and organiser of the Green Zone Drive event in Melbourne. “In this way we will be making a meaningful contribution to the reduction in CO2 emissions.”

The Victorian Transport Minister, The Hon. Tim Pallas M.P., whose department actively supported the event – along with the RACV and EPA Victoria – formally opened the event on 1st October, and was welcomed by John Isaac, President and Chairman of the Board of the RACV.

Partners in producing the event were the Australian Conservation Foundation, the 50BY50 Global Fuel Economy Initiative, and Greenwheels; the joint initiative of Future Climate Australia, RACV and EPA Victoria, which provides an on-line guide to low emission passenger vehicles sold in Australia (

The event also benefited from the commercial support of sponsors Shell, Michelin, Better Place and Murcotts.

Test vehicles on offer were: (in alphabetical order) Audi A4 and A5 Sportback; Blade Electron Mk V; BMW X1 and 3 Series Sedan; Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and C5 Sedan; Ford Fiesta ECOnetic and Mondeo Zetec; Hyundai i20 and Santa Fe; MINI Cooper Diesel; Mitsubishi ASX and i-MiEV; Toyota Hybrid Camry and Prius; and the Volvo C30 DRIVe.


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