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GE, Better Place team up on electric vehicle infrastructure

GE, Better Place team up on electric vehicle infrastructure

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General Electric and Better Place, which provides electric vehicle infrastructure, said Wednesday they have formed a broad partnership designed to speed up EV adoption via standards, financing and awareness.

General Electric and Better Place, which provides electric vehicle infrastructure, said Wednesday they have formed a broad partnership designed to speed up EV adoption via standards, financing and awareness.

Specifically, the two companies will focus on the following:

  • Standards: GE's WattStation will be compatible with Better Place's service network. Better Place's business model revolves around a scenario where owning the car an battery are separate. EV owners can swap batteries as another one charges. GE and Better Place say their deal will allow drivers to "roam" between charge points with compatible systems.
  • Battery financing: The two companies will create a financing program to finance 10,000 batteries in Israel and Denmark, two of the first markets for Better Place.
  • Joint fleet programs for EVs: GE and Better Place will push for cities to electrify their fleets and connect highways.
  • Build awareness. The two companies will aim to build consumer awareness of the EV benefits. GE's marketing expertise will be a big resource on this front.

The partnership is broad and covers both technology and financing. GE brings its new WattStation to the table as well as hooks to its financing arm. Better Place brings a bevy of EV services and infrastructure knowhow.

Pike Research estimates that there's a EV charging infrastructure boom ahead with 4.7 million charge points being installed from 2010 to 2015. However, these charge points will vary by region. For instance, 64 percent of charge points in the U.S. will be residential by 2015. In Asia Pacific and Europe, charge points will dominated by public and private charging equipment. In other words, the GE-Better Place partnership may have more pop abroad relative to the U.S.

GE in recent months has been looking to highlight how it can collaborate with smaller players and crowdsource innovation. GE's message in July was clear: Startups need its scale and the company needs innovation help. The Better Place deal is an example of such a deal. This initial partnership may also be a precursor to a larger tie-up down the road.

Beth Comstock, GE's chief marketing officer, said in a statement that the integration of the company's WattStation will play well with Better Place's infrastructure. Better Place CEO Shai Agassi said the GE partnership builds an ecosystem that will allow it to scale faster. Indeed, the GE arrangement is a big win for Better Place. Agassi has said that making EVs affordable will be critical to adoption.

“Our collaboration with GE is another significant step forward for Better Place as we seek to assemble a formidable ecosystem of industry leaders including Renault, HSBC and now GE that can help us scale our model globally," said Agassi. Indeed, GE-Better Place partnership would have the heft to take on large markets like China. Given the fact that U.S. EVs will have batteries included---with warranties---the Better Place model is more likely to be a global play first.

Here's a look at the WattStation, which will be available in 2011.

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And here's Agassi on Better Place's current projects and the plan for broad EV adoption.

[video=445239]

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure