Big Fleet Buyers Have an Important Role to PlayPlug-in vehicles, either fully electric like the Nissan LEAF or plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) like the Chevy Volt, are at a delicate stage of their evolution. We're out of the "proof of concept" phase, during which people and the media gatekeepers had to be convinced that this thing was actually possible. Tesla did a lot to break that barrier with its electric Roadster, grabbing a lot of mindshare and replacing visions of golf carts with those of supercars.
But while it's great to be out of the early days, we're not out of the woods yet. If the final destination is to have plug-in vehicles be "mainstream", then we still need to get through what I would call the "ramp up" phase. We're seeing lots of models come to market, and they're all more affordable and using better technology than anything we had a few years ago, but apart from early-adopters, most people will still take a wait-and-see approach for a while. That's why this is a delicate time for plug-in vehicles: We know that in a few years there will be more models available, and they'll be cheaper and have longer driving ranges, and there will be more public fast-charging stations sprinkled across the country, etc. But it's a catch 22, because if everybody waits, we'll never get to that future. So in the meantime, we need as many early-adopters as possible to keep the momentum going...
Enter the fleet buyers.
I'll Take 166 DozensA few years ago GE had already stated the goal of having 25,000 plug-in vehicles in its fleet by 2015, with about 12,000 of those planned to be Chevrolet Volts. Now GE is announcing that it will purchase at least 2,000 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids (which get 100 MPGe combined, 108 MPGe in city driving, and 92 MPGe on the highway, according to the EPA's methodology for PHEVs).
"The two companies will also work with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology to study GE employee driving and charging habits, with the goal of improving all-electric driving and charging performance. Researchers will use Ford’s MyFord® Mobile app – with real-time battery charge status and value charging that automatically recharges at lower-cost, off-peak electricity rates."
Whatever you think about GE, I think it's a good thing that they're spending money on plug-in vehicles for their fleet rather than on gas or diesel models. It not only makes their thousands of vehicle produce less air pollution and greenhouse gases, as well as use less expensive fossil fuel, but it also acts as a kind of capital injection to plug-in vehicle manufacturing, helping things keep going long enough to get to that "mainstream" phase that I mentioned above. So kudos for that!