by Karnig Kazarian
General Electric Co. (GE) recently announced that it plans to purchase 25,000 electric vehicles for its fleet over the next five years—beginning with an order of 12,000 vehicles from General Motor Co. and adding other vehicles as manufacturers expand their electric-vehicle profiles. “By electrifying our own fleet, we will accelerate the adoption curve, drive scale, and move electric vehicles from anticipation to action,” said GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt in a statement.
Across the Atlantic, French automaker Renault S.A. forecasts that electric cars will account for approximately 10 percent of the world market by 2020 and, through its alliance with Nissan, seeks to become the leading manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles by making them accessible to the greatest number of consumers by 2011. With practically every major carmaker having introduced or planning to introduce electric vehicles, rental car companies prudently decided to jump on this electrified bandwagon: Enterprise Rent-A-Car will begin offering electric vehicles to customers across eight different markets this month; Alamo and National will make electric vehicles available in January 2011; and Hertz is expected to provide electric models by early 2011.
President Obama’s campaign pledge to put one million plug-in cars on the road by 2015 might have seemed ambitious, but Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported that plug‐in electric vehicles, including plug‐in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, have the potential to make up 9 percent of auto sales in 2020 and 22 percent in 2030—1.6 million and 4 million vehicle sales respectively. These predictions, as elucidated in the report, depend on two key factors: aggressive reductions in battery costs and rising gasoline prices.
As gas prices trend upward, battery manufacturers continue to achieve substantial cost reductions as the result of recent technological advancements. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy highlighted in Recovery Act Investments: Transforming America’s Transportation Sector that the Recovery Act investments, which received a minimum dollar-for-dollar match, should help lower the cost of some batteries for electric vehicles by nearly 70 percent before the end of 2015.
The success of electric vehicles in the U.S. will also depend on the availability of public charging stations. In addition to GE’s WattStation, The EV Project and ChargePoint America represent considerable efforts to deploy charging stations throughout the country and accelerate the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.
While the aforementioned factors will continue to significantly shape the future of electric cars, GE’s sizeable investment has confirmed that widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles is no longer just a fantasy.