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GE Puts the Brakes on 25,000-EV Plan

General Electric has downshifted its 2010 pledge – touted at the time as the largest such commitment in history – to buy 25,000 electric autos by 2015, Bloomberg reports.

Deb Frodl, GE’s corporate fleet-services chief strategy officer, tells the news service that GE customers wanted more options, so GE has included natural gas-powered pickups and propane-fueled vehicles among about 11,000 autos already acquired from makers including Ford Motor Co. and General Motors. The purchased vehicles include 2,000 C-Max Energi and 3,000 Chevrolet Volt plug-ins, but also 300 Ford F-250 compressed natural gas pickup trucks. The remaining purchased autos are mostly plug-in hybrids and EVs.

GE’s pledge of 25,000 electric and alternative-fuel vehicles calls for 10,000 such vehicles to be spread among the company’s 65,000 fleet customers. The other 15,000 will replace half of GE’s own corporate cars.

In November 2010 when CEO Jeffrey Immelt announced GE’s EV-buying plans, the company said the Chevrolet Volt would be among the 12,000 GM EVs purchased. A year later a fire engulfed one of the plug-in cars following testing at a federal facility.

Frodl tells Bloomberg hat the Volt’s battery fire didn’t have anything to do with GE’s decision to diversify its alternative-fuel cars, but says GM will have to offer new electric models if GE is to buy some 12,000 by 2015.

The news service reports that Volt sales were so slow in 2012 that GM cut its global delivery goal 42 percent, to 35,000 sedans. US shipments for the year totaled 23,461. Although sales fell short of GM’s revised target, they were still triple that of the previous year, the Christian Science Monitor notes.

In late 2012, GM said it will fix a software glitch in the 2013 Volt (pictured) that causes the car’s electric motor to shut down abruptly, and just last week Autoblog.com reported that some automotive dealerships are stopping Volt sales because of the pricey additional tools and equipment needed to effectively sell and service the vehicles. Such costs run in excess of $5,000.

GE is buying 2,000 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-in hybrids for its fleet as part of a broader collaboration with the automaker. The purchase brings GE’s alternative fuel vehicle fleet to more than 5,000.

The partnership is one of many GE has established with EV automakers and retailers to market its WattStation charging station. In July 2012, GE partnered with home improvement store Lowe’s to offer the WattStation Wall Mount Electric Vehicle Charging Station for homes and businesses. GE and Better Place teamed up in 2010 in a deal to combine the WattStation with EV services and infrastructure.

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