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GE plans centers to promote EVs to fleets

Automotive News reports on GE's plans to build a charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

General Electric Co. is promoting a future in which charging stations for electric vehicles are just as prevalent as parking meters today.

In addition to electrifying half of its own fleet by 2015, GE plans to open two experience centers where fleet operators can learn about switching to electric vehicles.

Deb Frodl, chief strategy officer at GE Capital Fleet Services, said educating fleet customers will help GE shape the future.

"Our intention is to help our customers understand the opportunity and make the right choices in their conversion of a portion of their fleet or their total fleet," Frodl told Automotive News.

At the experience centers, potential customers of commercial fleet vehicles will be able to test-drive electric vehicles, use GE equipment, and meet with representatives from automakers and battery manufacturers.

The first center will open in Eden Prairie, Minn., near the headquarters of GE Capital Fleet Services, by the end of March 2011. The other will open soon after that in suburban Detroit as part of a new technology center that GE announced last year.

The centers will display electric cars, trucks and vans that GE will acquire as automakers expand their portfolios. They also will highlight the WattStation, a tier-two charger that pits GE against competitors such as SPX Service Solutions. Last month, General Motors Co. contracted with the unit of SPX Corp. to produce quick-charging units for the Chevrolet Volt.

Over time, Frodl said, GE wants to open other customer experience centers in Europe, Asia and South America. Because requirements for electric-vehicle components will be different in other countries, GE plans to use the centers to conduct research and collect feedback from potential customers.

By seeing which products could make electrification easier, GE would be looking to expand its own product portfolio.

"We will be looking at what's different, what other products and services must be created to have a flawless customer experience," Frodl said. She said the company wants customers "to see how GE is positioned to make this experience very fluid and flawless for them as they contemplate changing."

(Source: Automotive News)