EV Roots: GE Comes Home

By Bill Moore

Posted: 22 Sep 2010

General Electric has just come home. Originally the creation of Thomas Edison in 1890, it eventually merged with its chief competitor, Thomson-Houston, and became the General Electric Company. What began as a business creating electric power generation and lighting equipment would also go on to become a world leader in jet aircraft engines, medical equipment and in renewable energy, as well as a dominate force in commercial broadcasting.

Early in GE's business timeline, around 1912-1914, Edison began working on an advanced battery for electric cars, eventually teaming up with Henry Ford. Whether through technical shortcomings or industrial sabotage, the Edison/Ford electric car project failed, but not before Edison claimed that an electric car equipped with his battery could drive 200 miles on a single charge.

Now giant GE has again set its sights on becoming a leading player in the emerging EV world by introducing the WattStation public charger, a stylish, high-tech EVSE (electric vehicle service equipment) charging station designed by Yves Behar of the FuseProject. (They also may be getting back into the EV battery 'game,' according to my sources, picking up where Thomas Edison left off a century earlier).

The company also understands the critical need for public education and towards that end, it recently rolled out "The GE Show," a web-based experience that features videos and interactive applications, including a section devoted entirely to Electric Vehicles. Besides "Healthy Hospitals" and EVs, the site will also feature programs showing GE's efforts in air traffic control management and rail transportation.

The Electric Vehicles section is divided between videos, anti-range anxiety calculators, and even a video game that challenges the player to see how far around a virtual town they drive in an electric car; gamers will appreciate it. As for me, I found interesting the short series of videos that feature an introduction to the history of electric vehicles: an interview with WattStation designer Behar; another with Jorah Wyre, the VP of Engineering at Mission Motors, the electric motorcycle equivalent to the Tesla Roadster; a 'first-timers' test drive in a converted plug-in Prius; and an interview with Jason Wolf, Vice President of Better Place, which has now partnered with GE on the deployment of charging stations.

Finally, a segment called Rollout Reality attempts to project the impact that millions of EVs will have someday, including the seemingly paradoxical decrease in the cost of electricity from 9¢/kWh in 1980 to 1¢/kWh by 2030, this despite the fact that the amount of electricity consumed annually in the United States is projected to jump from 2,234 Terrawatt hours to 5.373TWh, an estimated 12% of which will be used to power electric cars. GE's crystal ball gazers also see 30% of all new car sales in 2030 being electric, while 38% will be IC-engine powered.

Clearly, GE sees a bright future for itself in a world increasingly propelled by the very electric power it helps generate, distribute and manage, and maybe even store for use on board the electric vehicles of tomorrow.

Go check out The GE Show. I'll be worth you while and when you've figured out how to play Electric Avenue, let me know. My game learning curve is very long and very steep! I am still trying to get out of my driveway.

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