GE’s announced commitment to buy at least 25,000 electric vehicles (EVs) will include commercial trucks and related services for the company’s fleet customers, according to an executive with GE Capital Fleet Services, the company’s vehicle leasing and management division.
On Thursday, GE said it would purchase 25,000 EVs by 2015, putting at least 15,000 into its own corporate fleet and the rest into the hands of leasing customers through GE Capital Fleet Services.
Providing financing and services for 1.6-million vehicles and 65,000 fleets, “Our customers have a wide variety of asset needs that range from sedans to heavy-duty trucks, and we fully intend to have a variety of vehicles in the [EV] mix,” said Deb Frodl, chief strategic & product development leader for GE Capital Fleet Services.
Although the GE announcement only specified the initial purchase of 12,000 GM EVs starting with the Volt sedan in 2011, commercial vehicles from multiple manufacturers “will absolutely be part of the mix,” Frodl told FleetOwner. “We’re also uniquely positioned to create new services and business products [for fleet EV users], including financing and equipment services,” she said.
While fleets face the incremental cost of acquiring EVs for commercial applications, those costs will be at least partially offset by tax credits. “But it’s the operating efficiency [of EVs], the significant savings there” that will bring commercial vehicles users to the plug-in technology, Frodl believes. “And we’ve always been good at helping them deploy the right vehicle to deliver operational savings,” she said.
Central to its EV fleet efforts is the creation of a “Customer Experience Center” at Fleet Service’s Eden Prairie, MN, headquarters. Stocked with EVs from a number of OEMs, the center will include a test track and classrooms, as well as displays to demonstrate related GE technology such as its consumer and public GE Watt charging stations.
The center is also intended to help GE develop its EV strategy, according to Frodl. “The customer center will play a key role in our research to understand what services we can provide fleet customers,” she said. “This is a new technology, and we want to have wing-to-wing solutions for our customers.”
With the first GM Volts expected to roll off the assembly line in the next few months, GE Fleet Services anticipates having cars in the customer experience center tin he first quarter of 2011, according to Frodl. The center should be ready for its official full launch in the second quarter, and fleet customer deliveries should begin later in the year depending on OEM availability, she said.