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GE Commits to Biggest Ever Single Purchase of Electric Vehicles

smart electric grid

Score one for the burgeoning electric vehicle industry: GE announced this week that it is buying 25,000 EVs in the single largest EV purchase commitment ever. GM is probably ecstatic about the deal; 12,000 of the EVs will come from the company, beginning with the Chevy Volt in 2011. Vehicles from different manufacturers will be added in the future.

The move is part of GE's plan to convert half of its global fleet of 30,000 vehicles to EVs by 2015. The rest of the EVs purchased by the company will be placed in its Capital Fleet Services business, which manages vehicle fleets for companies around the globe. It's an expensive investment, but GE thinks it will pay out in the end. The company's blog explains:

The so-called EV transformation — from both the utility side and the consumer side — will not only drive further clean-tech innovation, it will create jobs all along the EV supply chain. GE’s energy and tech teams see their involvement in the process as significant growth opportunity that’s expected to lead to up to $500 million in near-term business for GE.

That's because, as GE explains in the video below, the company sells a number of smart grid and EV charging products. One of the most high-profile GE-branded EV products is the WattStation, an Yves Behar-designed EV charging station set to be released in 2011. So it makes sense that GE wants to jump-start the EV industry—the company will profit handsomely if it takes off.

GE isn't the only major corporation to invest big bucks in alternative energy-powered fleets. FedEx currently operates largest hybrid EV fleet in the transportation industry, with nearly 2,000 of the vehicles in service around the world. It's a small number compared to GE's investment, but as FedEx CEO Fred Smith explained in a statement, "With more than 16.3 million vehicles in operation in 2009, the nation’s fleet can drive initial ramp-up scale in the battery industry and OEM [original equipment manufacturer] supply chains." Fleets, in other words, may be the key to a clean transportation system.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.