November 11th, 2010
09:15 AM ET

GE to buy 25K electric fleet vehicles

GE said Thursday it will buy 25,000 electric vehicles for its fleet through 2015 in the largest-ever purchase of electric cars.

GE will begin with an initial purchase of 12,000 vehicles from General Motor Co., starting with Chevy Volt in 2011. The conglomerate said it "will add other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric vehicle profiles."

The first Chevrolet Volt is expected to roll off production lines later this month.

GM confirmed the announcement with CNNMoney.com.

soundoff (383 Responses)
  1. Darrell

    Hmmm... let's see.... On one hand the ReVolt for around $40k (- a few $k for govt. sub. to buy the piece of crap) or on the other hand for a similar price tag you can buy a really nice late model used car or a new car that has some dignity. Hmmm decisions decisions. And GM wonders why they suck?

    November 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bob

    OMG I can't believe Jim in Texas. You need to get a life and quit spewing your crap. You're very good in how you write your arguments but the simple fact is if you don't believe in global warming and there are more of us then you think, all the fancy talk you are writing is meaningless. Your underlining premise is it is good you should believe and buy the Volt. You need to get over trying to convince everyone and realize people are still free and have a choice. I know your argument would be we need change our way or the world is coming to an end. I could get in to more and you would just come back with some well written retort but it is just your belief and that is fine so quit making us all miserable and shut up. In a nice way of course.

    November 11, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill in Indiana

    I'm amused by the way political opinions of the Obama administration have colored evaluations of the Volt, on the one hand, and by environmentalist criticisms that the Volt isn't a true "zero emissions" vehicle like an all-electric car (combined with some complaints that charging the Volt's battery isn't zero emission because the power plant may be fired by coal).

    I'm a conservative. I'm opposed to the policies of the Obama administration. I think General Motors made a lot of bad decisions in negotiating union contracts, which were the seeds of the company's bankruptcy. And I thought that the Obama administration's handling of the bankruptcy proceedings was shameful.

    I'm worried about the drastic loss of the ability to make things in the United States (and the loss of manufacturing jobs). My vehicle (an Acura RDX), my TVs, my computer equipment and cell phone and other electronic gadgets, even the clothes I wear were all produced in foreign countries. I understand the business decisions by companies that have sourced manufacturing overseas, and my pension plan and investments benefited from those business decisions. But I don't like them, and blame governmental policies that have been made over a long period for the decline of manufacturing in this country. We've lost jobs, and have balance of trade problems.

    I don't like our heavy dependence on foreign oil, and the enormous amount of money that flows out to purchase it.

    I don't like the rate at which this country is going into debt.

    I agree generally with JiminTexas. The Volt is very interesting technology and represents years of heavy investments in research, design and gearing up for production. Considered as an only car, it's a practical new approach for many drivers, whereas an all-electric vehicle will remain impractical for most drivers for the foreseeable future.

    All-electric vehicles face a serious problem. The amount of "energy density" in a battery - the energy content per pound - is much lower than the energy content of gasoline or diesel fuel. It takes much longer to recharge a battery than to fill up a vehicle's fuel tank. Not only does a battery hold much less energy than a comparable weight of gasoline, it must be conservatively designed to be recharged a great many times over a long time.

    The Volt's battery weighs 400 pounds and is intended to provide about 40 miles or so of all-electric driving range when fully charged. By contrast, the 9 gallons of gasoline that its fuel tank holds weighs much less than 400 pounds, and can give an added range of about 300 or so miles. (Don't suggest biofuels, as they typically have less energy density than gasoline, cause the price of food to rise and are not an environmentally sound approach, IMHO. I'd like to see more interest in producing gasoline/diesel from our very large supplies of natural gas.)

    Yes, charging the Volt's battery will result in a bill from your friendly electric utility. But the cost per mile for electric driving will be about like paying $0.50/per gallon for gasoline (less in some areas, such as mine). My service station charges a lot more than that for gasoline.

    Taking a long trip in an all-electric vehicle would be risky business. One might, perhaps, schedule a lot of long halts to recharge the batter - assuming there's a plugin that can be used. At least one company is producing electric vehicles that allow exchange of a depleted battery for a fully charged one at service stations along the way. True, that can work for essentially golf cart size and weight vehicles, but think about the size and weight of that 400 pound battery in the Volt. A "service station" to exchange batteries every few miles would require a large warehouse to store batteries and a high-tension electric line to handle the charging demands. Not likely to happen, at least given current battery technology and the high cost of providing such an infrastructure. It might be cheaper to electrify streets and highways, like the old electric trolley cars. 🙂

    Most of my driving trips could be done within the 40-mile range of all-electric power in a Volt, and still others within the 100-mile range of the coming Nissan electric. But I will not buy an all-electric vehicle, while I might very well buy a Volt within the next two or three years, if there's a cross-over SUV Volt (I need a capacious area when I haul my two large dogs to the vet). As I will own only one vehicle, I want it to be useful for cross-country trips as well as for a trip to my vet or the grocery.

    The price of vehicles like the Volt should come down as production volume increases and the initial (heavy) investment costs are repaid.

    I don't have a problem with governmental incentives to encourage buying newly introduced technology that is likely to produce a long-term benefit, such as in the case of the Volt, an all-American vehicle that can reduce the flow of dollars overseas. We've been doing that for a long time before Obama appeared, and that can be much more efficient than the recent "stimulus" packages.

    November 11, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Max Yakov

    So ... extra energy conversions to power it and the home electricity to charge is priced at a higher, non-bulk rate. When powered by battery, carries around an extra maybe 400 pounds (battery) than a gas-only vehicle or maybe 300 pounds than a battery-only vehicle (gas engine charger). This is essentially a 1920's/30's diesel-electric locomotive/submarine power-train design where weight was not the primary design issue even though weight is very important to (usually) single-passenger vehicle efficiency. It also, by it's nature must be more expensive than a gas-only vehicle.

    One thing about it, though, that sitting in the garage it could make the essentials of a home battery/charger electrical grid backup system ... that is also portable! All one has to do is obtain a 2/3 KW Inverter and determine a way to power it from the battery while it's parked in the garage and feed the inverter input into the house's A/C system. Optionally, one could also charge the batteries from solar panels while it's home. Downside of that it shouldn't be home during daylight hours should it? Unless one turned it into a permanent, garage-parked backup power system as mentioned earlier.

    Just considering what could be done with this overpriced/overkill vehicle to get more utility out of the price. Probably won't have to wait too long before they'll be going cheap, used and snapped up for home backup power systems.

    Max

    November 11, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Frank

    Back when the Concorde was retired, someone remarked that it was the first time IN HISTORY that a mode of transportation was phased out without being replaced by something faster and/or more efficient, the definition of "efficient" being "more practical," not "uses less gas" like the new and improved definition of "efficient" most folks are using these days. The Volt is just another example of this brave new reality, like a bazillion windmills to replace the output of one power plant and solar technology that only works in some places on certain days.

    The fact is, most people in practice aren't going to monkey around with installing a new 240v dryer socket in their house to charge their car. And even if they do, how many of them are going to actually remember to plug in their car every day? Most people are just going to end up going to the gas station to fill the thing up because it's too much of a pain to monkey around with charging it, and now all you have is a Rube Goldberg machine, a gas engine that turns a generator to charge batteries to power an electric motor, when they could just go out and buy a car with a gas engine that turns the drive wheels. And assuming they were vigilant about recharging, how many of them aren't going to have to run out suddenly to make unplanned trips while their battery is in the middle of a charge cycle? I'm no electrical engineer, but isn't it hard on batteries if you don't cycle them properly? Is this very thing going to be the way GM wriggles out of the 100k mile warranty for their batteries? "Sorry Frank you didn't follow the charging procedure, so you have to come out of pocket for your new batteries." I can see it already.

    Jim in Texas is just showcasing for us the classic conflict between engineers/accountants/salesmen everyone who ever attended business school should have learned about. Of course the engineers think it's a good idea. All they care about is "can we build it or not"? That doesn't mean the accountants who have to keep track of the $ and justify the costs think so, same with the sales people who have to actually go out and sell the thing. These new green vehicles are an interesting phenomenon. All vehicles are purpose-built. A Camaro is fast. A Silverado is a workhorse. An Impala is a family sedan. A Volt.....saves gas.

    The Volt is a technological step backward, like all electric cars are. The exact same problems exist that caused Henry Ford to abandon the concept 100 years ago. Jim in Texas and other engineers may be able to find a way to get limited technologies like battery-powered cars to appear practical, but at what cost? If you could get a limited technology like a helicopter to fly supersonic, that doesn't mean people are going to shell out the $ when they could just buy a business jet for far less money. Rube Goldberg indeed.

    November 11, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. t

    i find it amusing to read the morons that make this a political issue. this change will reduce dependance on those azz hos in the middle east. i hope they can eat their oil.

    November 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hub

    Hey Jim in Texas, did you forget?...GM may have given us the first airbag, but the first airbags killed people. How's that for government mandated technical innovation?

    November 11, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Max Yakov

    Continuing with the thought that the Volt will have, except for the inverter, the makings of a standalone A/C backup system, it would make an excellent campsite power source with the inverter upgrade. If rolled into the campsite with a fully-charged battery it could even supply quiet A/C while the battery remains charged to a certain level. After that, the charging engine kicks in. Of course the car's charging system would have to be modified to allow battery charging when the vehicle is not moving and the engine would have to withstand constant running (some exhaust systems are not designed for that). Interfacing the inverter to the battery could also be problematic.

    Maybe buying a small gas-powered generator would be a lot less hassle and cost-effective. On the other hand, the Volt will be a future collector's item so it would be better to squeeze some additional utility from it until it can be unloaded on eBay at a 500% profit ... or not.

    Max

    November 11, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. don

    Correction – the American taxpayer will be buying 25000 over priced paper weights due to the fact GE is in the pocket of Obama and will be getting billions in govt money to play along with the GREEN JOBS SCAM.
    Almost nobody would buy this piece of junk. Remindes me of the crap cars the govt produced in the Soviet Bloc.

    November 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Max Yakov

      You may or not be correct about the taxpayer's indemnification for this purchase, but as far as it's being a piece of junk and remindful of Soviet bloc vehicles – Nyet! This is the so-far top-of-the-line, hi-tech, overkill vehicle for people and companies that have more cash (or other people's cash) than they know what to do with. Will it sell to a consumer who wants more crash-protection (a SUV) than an overpriced sardine can crammed full of solid state electronics, electric motors, a large battery and a charging engine that leaves little room for cargo? Probably not.

      November 11, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MemyselfandI

    I am surprised that GE did not buy GM just to shut it down, send it to china just to buy the cars at a cheaper price.

    November 11, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. davec

    Publicity stunt. A couple thousand cars, maybe, but there is absolutely NO chance of mass consumer sales of these because not only is there nowhere near enough power generation capacity to power them, but the transmission systems cannot handle it.

    so, the gasoline battery charger is stuffed under the hood to charge the batteries, at LESS ENERGY EFFICIENCY THAN A GAS ENGINE ALONE.

    it violates the entire physics book at once to pretend a hybrid has any chance of "efficiency"

    Throw in the world-wide shortage of battery-making material for fun.

    November 11, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jewfromhell

    Make sure that you put your finger in the socket first!

    November 11, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DC in Detroit (really!)

    The Volt is the perfect car for those would like to trade in their White Liberal Guilt for the newer Green Liberal Guilt.

    November 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. thoughtchallenge

    Let's get the story straight on subsidies. The oil and gas industries receive subisidies, tax breaks and a wide variety of perks for drilling for oil and natural gas both foreign and domestic. We're talking tens of billions a year in breaks, incentives and subsidies. The timber industry is another good example, and by far not the only one.

    Do we need the Volt? Absolutley. Oil has reached peak production capacity, which means the world will never produce more oil than it is right now. China and other developing countries are using more not less oil. That means higher gasoline prices. This is a particular problem for the United States, simply because we burn more oil per person than the rest of the world.

    $41K for the Volt seems like a lot, but the car could return the initial costs over its life cycle, even without the government tax break. With production limited to approximately 10,000 the first year it isn't likely these breaks will add up to so much anyway. Again, oil companies as well as other companies and farmers and the lists go on and on, receive tax breaks and other incentives. So, get over it.

    As mass production kicks in these vehicles will be priced lower and offer even greater fuel economy thanks to improved efficiencies and technology.

    The pull behind range extender trailers being discussed for the Nissan Leaf will offer a credible solution range issues. These trailers will likely be rented by trailer rental companies as well as car dealerships. Look for all electric battery extenders, gasoline generator extenders and natural gas range extenders.

    November 11, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. DavidK

    Wake up people GE and GM both government puppets. GE should be ashamed. GM is a Union controlled Travesty that should be corrected before it dies. Unions are what's driven our US jobs away more than anything. The waste of productivity and the excess off employment taxing for their interest groups is appalling.

    November 11, 2010 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
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