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True belief or wishful thinking?

That's the question some may ask about General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt and his statement that electric vehicles will become more than a just niche market in the U.S.

Immelt, speaking at a Detroit automotive conference on Tuesday, said GE will continue to invest in battery-electric vehicle technology with the belief that lower costs and improved performance will allow EVs to reach "a tipping point," Reuters reported. Immelt stressed the fact that GE's decision was based on his belief in what will be a substantial market, adding that "novelties don't work."

Last year, electric-drive vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in and Nissan Leaf battery-electric accounted for less than one in 500 new cars sold. By comparison, hybrids account for about one in 50 new cars sold.

GE was an early supporter of electric-drive vehicles, agreeing in November 2010 to order 12,000 Volts and work with its fleet customers to purchase 10,000 more electric-drive vehicles by 2015. GE said at the time that electric-drive vehicle adoption could create $500 million in revenue for the company during the ensuing three years.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 69 Comments
      mylexicon
      • 3 Years Ago
      "You never can tell when this will reach a tipping point...a lot has to happen in order for this to take place," Immelt said.
      twogrim
      • 3 Years Ago
      Last time I checked a volt was a hybrid not an electric car, get it right guys!
        Grendal
        • 3 Years Ago
        @twogrim
        "electric-drive vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in" The Volt is an "electric drive vehicle." They got it right. Calling the Volt a hybrid forces direct comparisons to a Prius and other similar hybrids. JMHO but I believe they are marketing the Volt in the right way. When used the way it was designed, the Volt is primarily an EV. It has an ICE that recharges the battery pack when someone needs to drive more than their normal commute distance. It is a car that promotes EV technology while allowing an uninformed general public to learn about the advantages of EV's while having the safety net of using the technology they are used to and comfortable with. We can argue semantics all day. If the goal is a future with EV technology then the Volt should be embraced and promoted by the EV community, not denigrated as "just a hybrid."
      BTCC
      • 3 Years Ago
      He just realized all the billions he's been pumping into Barry Soetoro's campaign is a waste as come November, he getting booted out of office.
        Grendal
        • 3 Years Ago
        @BTCC
        Are you that bored? Is your life truly so trivial that you spend time believing in BS conspiracy theories? I'm sure you believe you have just enough proof through various sources that justifies your BS belief structure. Get a life. Do something to promote the betterment of yourself and your fellow human beings instead of waste your time on stuff that makes for a good movie plot but little else. The BS 9/11 conspiracies are equally moronic. The simplest reasoning shows how conspiracy theories are all impossible in today's world. This is the age of information. There are cameras all around you. It takes almost no time before any incident is shown all around the world. A school shooting, a government being overthrown, or a natural disaster are all seen everywhere in a very short amount of time. There are few secrets anymore. The President (arguably the most powerful person on the planet) was getting a BJ in the oval office and he couldn't hide it. Everyone wants to be in the spotlight and there are millions of dollars to be made for any big secret you can expose. Any big conspiracy takes a great number of people to be involved and the more people the greater chance the secret information will be exposed. It just doesn't happen in modern times. Sorry. The simpler truth is that you're bored and have nothing better to do than justify your dislike of someone with BS theories. How about you focus that persons policies and have rational discourse to everyone else as to why you rather have someone else in office because you like their policies better. No? It's probably because you're lazy and rather not have to think and have reasons for what you do. So again - get a life. Sorry for the rant...
        Grendal
        • 3 Years Ago
        @BTCC
        And sorry, but there is almost no chance for Romney to win. He barely won the Republican nomination. Even his own party doesn't really like the guy. He's just the guy they settled on. He's just not a compelling candidate. His entire campaign will be "Vote for me if you don't like Obama." Which is just not enough to pull off a win. The Democrats will be able to convince their base to vote against him on the "He's the 1% who's looking to avoid paying his fair share of taxes." The religious right won't even vote for Romney just because he's a Mormon. And I'm not a massive Obama supporter either, but the writing is on the wall. Romney has little to no chance. I'm willing to take bets...
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Grendal
          @Gendal Well said, very well said indeed!
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yes, they will reach a tipping point. That is obvious. But no one knows when that will occur and that is a very important thing. And we don't know what will be the bigger factor . . . lower battery prices or higher gas prices. I think it will be a combo but sadly, mostly the latter.
      • 3 Years Ago
      General Electric knows what they are talking about and I know they are taking steps to supply electric cars with a charging system, ie., their solar park, I think is just fantastic. The only thing holding electric cars back is the automakers with their house full of excuses. There are batteries in design and ready for production that can get 750 MPC, and there is a nuclear battery, and GM is aware of it, that can get 300,000 MPC. So, we can tell those greedy oil producers to stick their oil where the sun don't shine and we need to tell the automakers to stop dragging their heels and get to producing those electric cars - electric cars is a win win for us all.
      Lou Grinzo
      • 3 Years Ago
      A few things to keep in mind: 1. Oil and therefore gasoline will continue to be volatile, but the general price trend will be upwards, possibly sharply so, depending on what China and India do. 2. The primary thing keeping EVs from taking the industry by storm is the price performance of batteries. If Honda could sell, at a profit, a Fit EV that got 300 miles/charge for, say, $25,000, there would be a waiting list from here to the moon. (And my name would be on it.) The only thing between today's offerings and that $25k Fit is the price of batteries, and that's going to decline, probably by a lot, in the next few years. 3. When the perceived utility (note the careful wording) of gasoline vs. electricity powered cars cross for a lot of people, we have a tipping point that will make for some very interesting fireworks in the marketplace. Long waiting lists for EVs, resale prices on gas guzzlers plummeting, car companies suddenly taking much more extreme steps to squeeze out a few more MPG, etc. (On that last point, does anyone else here remember the diesel VWs around 1980 that had start/stop technology? Car companies can downsize engines, get rid of a lot of heavy options, use start/stop, etc., and make gasoline cars more attractive once consumer preferences shift.)
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Lou Grinzo
        @SNP: I have no doubt that a combination of electrification and the sheer unaffordability of oil will limit the price at some point. The issue is time frames. For all the blatherings of cornucopians we are running into restricted supplies of cheap oil now, and even expensive oil such as that in the tar sands takes many years to develop and huge amounts of money, water, natural gas and other resources. Switching to producing electric cars takes time too, and even after it reaches 100% of output turning the car fleet over takes around 15 years. So I see many years of restricted oil supplies and high prices, limited by folk simply not being able to afford transport, as shown by the dropping annual mileages covered in the OECD countries. That affects parts of the US more than most places, because life is very difficult without a car there. So we can transition, but doing so seems likely to be neither smooth nor pleasant.
        SNP
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Lou Grinzo
        actually, the price of oil will peak and fall. All depending on the price of EVs and global oil demand used for transportation and heating. In terms of heating, the US is dramatically weaning itself off oil and into natgas via fracking. As far as transportation goes, this administration has really put an exclamation mark on reducing oil consumption. 40k and falling for a new EV is very very good for our future. In terms of oil price, once oil reaches a certain level, that 40k ceiling will determine how much farther oil will go. As far as I see based on current hybrid/EV prices, oil will never reach $8-10/gallon. It's economically not possible because people will be purchasing hybrids/EVs in droves and demand for oil will permanently shrivel which would reduce prices further. What would really help right now is another CashForClunkers program targeted at old trucks/SUVs in exchange for hybrid trucks/SUVs...but alas the tech isnt mature enough yet. Obama really is a genius on this front...
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SNP
          They will still need to buy oil for long-haul trucks, aviation, maritime usage, etc. But yeah, if EVs & PHEVs are cheap enough, the price of oil may get capped as people abandon conventional gas cars. That would be glorious. It would be good for the air (less pollution), it would be good for the economy (much lower trade deficit), it would be good for the climate (less CO2), etc.
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      The tipping point will be the point at which gas is so much more expensive than electricity that operating costs for an average gas vehicle are more than a monthly car payment for an electric vehicle. New conventional gas vehicles will rot on the lots and resale value for gas vehicles will crater. The market will entirely switch to hybrid, electric and plug-in vehicles.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        It will happen sooner than that. Basically, you are suggesting the EV has to be free before someone will take it.
          paulwesterberg
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          The people buying now are EV enthusiasts/nerds for normals/pinks/drones to get into the market they need to see other people driving electric vehicles, have affordable vehicles in the marketplace and understand that the operating costs are significantly lower and likely to increase more slowly than the price of gasoline. I don't think it has to be free, but that has to be the perception in peoples minds before widespread adoption happens. For instance if we were to adopt a gas tax increase of 1 cent per month - 12 cents total per year then consumers would know FOR CERTAIN that by 2020 gas will be over $5 per gallon. Of course gas prices will be well over $5 per gallon by then anyway, but people are bad at forecasting and fluctuations in a volatile market makes it so that people hope that the price of gas will be low rather than anticipating an increase and taking rational steps to mitigate its impact.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          I like that one penny per month idea. Very small increase over time . . . but certain. Do it for 8 years. That would slowly ramp it up to a mere 96 cents . . . which is still very cheap compared to Europe where they charge like $4/gallon in taxes. It would bring in revenue, may people choose high MPG cars, and direct people to EVs.
        kEiThZ
        • 3 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        We're not far from that today. I have a 2003 Lexus IS 300. I average about 24 000km a year. Though, transit use in the last few years has shaved off at least a third of that usage, if I go back to 24 000km per year, gas would cost at least $300-$350 per month. And that doesn't account for the increased maintenance costs of an ICE. The problem today though is that current ICE vehicles aren't half-bad with mileage. Most 2013 models, are 50% more efficient than my car. That means the gas bill would be half. Somebody buying a car today would not hit a point where they might contemplate switching to an EV for another 10 years. For me though, an EV is not all that radical an idea at this point. If Tesla's Bluestar launched tomorrow, I'd be pre-ordering. But I don't have the cash for a Model S or a Model X. Last point, as a single guy, I'd only consider a real EV. By that I mean an EV that can actually replace my car. The Leaf is just pathetic with range. And with the Volt I just wonder if PHEVs will cost more to maintain in the long run with both electric drivetrains and gasoline engines. I'm holding out for the Bluestar right now.
        Ford Future
        • 3 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Ford, building factories in China, Honda giving up R&D to China, and new models first in China, clearly indicates tight markets and high gas prices are here to stay.
      Ronald Wolf
      • 3 Years Ago
      GM should expand their volt technology to something like an Equinox. Even if only got 25-30 miles per charge, it would be a much more useful vehicle than the Volt.
      • 3 Years Ago
      One thing I know for sure..We the "Indians" and our neighbour "Chinese" are on car buying spree..At current rate of increase in number of Cars in India and China very soon there will be imbalance in Oil Demand and Oil prices will sharply go up and will keep going up. They will never come down. So it will be wise decision to Go for Hybrid or Electric Cars.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        And that is the hard truth. The Chinese car market is bigger than the USA car market now and it is continuing to grow. India is also growing. People that buy cars today assuming there will be $3.50/gallon gasoline in the future are in for a rude awakening.
      brotherkenny4
      • 3 Years Ago
      So GE has committed to buy 12,000 Volts, and yet the Volt factory gets shut down because of over supply? There is a disconnect there. Perhaps they are waiting for the price to come down. Of course at the pace that GM is manufacturing that won't happen any time soon. Battery price, that too won't come down until certain volumes are reached. So what is it, lack of demand or lack of production rate? If GM commits to building 100K units what does that mean to price? If that price is $32K maybe they can sell 100K units. Personally, I think these guys are so risk averse that they just can't do big things any more. They'll wait until the Japanese and Chinese do it first so they have a better feel for the acceptance by the consumer. Of course, since they have no real regard for what Americans want why should we have any loyalty to them. They've all been spending more money in China lately than in the US anyway.
        SVX pearlie
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        OK, smart guy, quick question for you: Did GE announce the purchase, before, or *after* the Volt shutdown? In all likelihood, GE read that the Volt was "oversupplied" in the US, so had their fleet manager call GM's corporate fleet sales and they started talking some very serious "what if" questions. The thing probably snowballed, and GM got a commit for 12k units at a very good price to GE. With the Volt largely out of the firing line of Republican talk, it's no longer corporate controversial for GE to do this. As for production, GM can build 50k annually (1k per week x 50 weeks/year). GM is on track to sell 20k to 30k Volt in the US, 7k to 10k Ampera, and now has an order for 12k Volt for GE. This should be OK.
          Sasparilla Fizz
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          As the article says, GE announced the purchase back in Nov 2010 and was obviously doing the negotiating before that and during that time the Volt was selling every vehicle produced because they hadn't scaled production up yet. Guessing that GE is taking its Volts over a multi-year time span.
        Marco Polo
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        @ brotherkenny4 GE is ordering on the basis of a managed fleet replacement deal. This means that GE will take delivery of Volts as it's existing fleet vehicles reach their replacement mileage. A little research would save you from posting these embarrassing rants and baseless speculation..
        Sasparilla Fizz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Very good questions and points. Even without the capacity and scale vehicle battery prices have declined by 30% since 2009 and 14% last year alone - there was an article on this site about it recently. They are smallish per year but compounding decreases and over the span of 5 or 10 years lead to huge price decreases. We're going to find out about the "scale will bring down the price" argument from Nissan later this year. Nissan CEO Ghosn has said in interviews recently it is scale that is the main issue with pricing and by the beginning of 2013 Nissan will have factories on 3 continents making Leaf's. I'm expecting a big discount on the 2013 Leaf from Nissan (to use those hugely expensive factories they just invested in) but we'll have to wait and see. As far as GM goes, when they made the decisions and choices about the Volt they weren't aware of Nissan's plans and GM's plans were and still are radical compared to any other automaker (except Tesla perhaps) with GM planning on going to serious scale with V2 - of course those guys deciding that are no longer calling the shots at GM. Their Volt production capacity per year is 65,000 supposedly (way more than anyone except Nissan once they open their additional plants) and the limit is because of battery production capacity (battery plants take years to design and build) which can't just be cranked up like normal ICE production can.
          Ford Future
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Sasparilla Fizz
          Batteries are being produced by the "tech" industry, which is not afraid of capital investment, and quick, short lead times.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Sasparilla Fizz
          S/be:'GM's plans are more radical than any other automaker than Nissan AND MITSUBISHI' They are not big in the States, but they both started mass production of EVs and are still second only to Nissan in their worldwide production.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      I gotta say.. After nearly a century of big oil and it's various interests running the show and ensuring that the internal combustion engine wins, i'm pretty happy to see a big nasty megacorp standing behind electric vehicles ( or at least ones that are primarily driven by electricity ). Thank you GE.
        Sasparilla Fizz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        So well put... +1
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Well it is not like they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart. GE makes its money selling chargers, power plants, turbines, electricity distribution equipment, etc. But at least GE is better lined up with the American populace than oil companies. Oil companies largely import oil. GE power plants will be built here, run by people here, fed with fuel (natural gas, coal, wind, etc.) from here, install distribution equipment here, etc.
        SVX pearlie
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        For GE, the Volt makes a lot of sense + they can get maximum BEV use out of it via onsite Level 2 charging, + no worry about one of their employees getting stranded, due to ER. + "Electric" + tax write offs, state & local & Federal incentives + fantastic mileage + domestic production + domestic OEM Also, I see a bunch of Satellite Auto Volts in SoCal wearing corporate livery - clearly, they made a rational fleet decision based on per-mile costs.
          Ford Future
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Since the Volt is electric, it uses power from GE Products: Wind and Nuclear. Increasing demand for GE Products.
          MTN RANGER
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Ford Future, And GE EVSEs
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      it will come but not before either A) someone makes a lean efficient EV with the price savings that come from that or B) batteries advance so far that even with the gargantuan incompetence and indifference the automakers are displaying it will be good enough to compete. both have poor outlooks. A could be done today but the world is jampacked.. I expect we will see the current crappy overpriced products continue at a slow pace for quite a while yet.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        You really need to drop the "Everyone else out but me is an incompetent boob!" attitude. If it was as easy as you say then someone would do it. That is logic. Of course, if it is so easy then you should do it. But you can't because it isn't that easy. So I'm sure you've got a long list of conspiracy theories about how "the man" is holding you back from creating the break-through EV.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          cost of car manufacture comes to mind. if you want me to not declare everyone idiots, you should probably do better than that.
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