It makes sense that a company called General Electric would be bullish on electric cars. But even by that standard the company is diving into the deep end, with what it says will be the biggest order ever placed for electric vehicles. CEO Jeffrey Immelt said GE will order 25,000 electric vehicles including 12,000 Chevy Volts, a move that is sure to jump-start the nascent EV market as automakers like Nissan and General Motors bring the cars to showrooms later this year.
GE and Better Place recently announced a "technology and financing partnership" to develop public charging infrastructure and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, especially by corporate fleets. Better Place, a Silicon Valley startup founded by Shai Agassi, plans to roll out charging infrastructure and battery-swap stations in Israel and elsewhere — and Renault is its partner in that endeavor.
Better Place and Renault signed a deal last year to put 100,000 EVs on the road in Israel and Denmark by 2016. Better Place also has been using converted Nissan Rogues to show off its battery-swap technology in Tokyo.
It's worth noting that GE's partnership with Better Place includes a plan to develop a mechanism for financing batteries — beginning with a pilot program to finance 10,000 batteries in Israel and Denmark. Who's currently building the only car with a swappable battery? You guessed it — Renault. That car, the Fluence Z.E., is being tested in Israel. General Electric and Nissan also are working together to develop so-called "smart charging."
What's more, Renault-Nissan is, at this point, the only company that looks like it could have the capacity to fill GE's order. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has made it clear he believes electrics are the future, and he is positioning the two automakers to lead the market.