GE backs electric cars — this time for keeps!

General Electric bought a wind power company and a solar power company a while ago, and those two clean energy sectors have been soaring. Now GE has announced it is backing a Norwegian electric car manufacturer, TH!NK, which just unveiled a five-seat crossover concept car, the Ox, in Geneva:


[Note to TH!NK: Love the company’s name, but not the car’s. This thing goes 0 to 60 in under 8.5 seconds. It ain’t an Ox.]

And GE announced it has invested in everybody’s darling lithium-ion battery company, A123, which will be supplying batteries to TH!NK.

GE is now A123’s largest cash investor, having put more than US $20 million into the company. In addition, GE disclosed it has invested US $4 million in Think Global, the Norwegian holding company that makes the electric cars.

So they haven’t bet the bank — but this money is about one quarter of the total investment in energy companies made by GE Energy Financial Services in the past 18 months. GE Global Research is also aggressively pursuing transportation electrification technologies, with DOE and other federal support:

GE’s research includes a US $5.6 million US Energy Department contract to develop smaller, lower cost, higher performing hybrid drivetrain motors for hybrid electric vehicles. In addition, GE is working on a US $1.2 million project to develop advanced high temperature, high energy density capacitors.

edison-electric-car.jpgMark Little, Senior Vice President and Director of GE Global Research, explains that this is really part of a very old strategy by the company [photo of Edison with electric car]:

“Our researchers are improving energy storage and conversion technology as the key enabler of our founder Thomas Edison’s vision of electricity as a viable propulsion system for vehicles, ranging from automobiles to industrial vehicles and locomotives.”

Everything old is new again. I wouldn’t bet against GE this time.

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6 Responses to GE backs electric cars — this time for keeps!

  1. Ben says:

    You should really do a full post sometime on why you think cars are so important. Have you ever tried to go car – free? It’s quite easy. Most people live in cities now, so it’s not unreasonable to think about moving away from inefficient low-occupant vehicles to more efficient modes of transportation.

    I rarely need to rely on public transit because the ease of walking and cycling where I live.

    I probably wouldn’t have posted anything if it weren’t for your aside about the Ox name. I just don’t think there is really much need to be going 60 mi/h at all to be honest. Having long distances between destinations is inefficient.

  2. Joe says:

    Well, the 0 to 60 claim is kind of standard for an EV. Ox is just such a dumb name. There are 700 hundred million cars in the world (probably triple that by 2050) — so I’m not sure the burden of proof is on me to explain why they’re so important.

  3. Mike says:

    Not everybody chooses to live your lifestyle. Maybe we will be forced to at some point by circumstance but, yes, people like powered devices…

    Also EVs are close to being as efficient as public transit, especially underutilized public transit. The capacity factor of EV use is 25% or higher while public trans can be less. I like public transit and bikes are OK too but they don’t work for every place or every person.

    Remember, also, that some of the fun of bike use in cities and settled areas is based on violating traffic and safety rules…lots of bikes and lots of pedestrians don’t mix unless there is very strict and some would feel “un-fun” regulation of bike traffic.

    I know this is not P.C. to say but if we just stick to the P.C. we will never get anywhere.

  4. Cheap says:

    I have driven a 100mpg wind powered Plug-in prius for about a year and I love it.

  5. Ronald says:

    It’s hard to believe that people can suggest that we can go car-free. I live in a northern state and maybe that’s why I find it so curious of a suggestion. Winter brings snow, cold and wind that can be difficult to get through as well as dangerous at times.

    I have been able to reduce my driving by combining trips and improved destination selection. I didn’t realize there were as many parks within biking distance from my house as there are until I found some good maps and went to everyone of them.

    There is this website that lists a rating of walk ability for a location.

    I got a 68 for where I live now. I have lived in places that got a zero for a rating. Not the best score for getting rid of the car.

  6. John says:

    General Motors a few years back had a feasible electric vehicle. Badged under the saturn nameplate, it was called the EV1. Based on a documentary I viewed recently, GM gathered up the vehicles and destroyed them rather than sell them to former people who leased them that offered to buy them. I would like to see GE examine the EV1 and develop a product the would be an improvement on it. There is certainly a market for these vehicles. Let’s hope that “Big Oil” and the auto parts industry doesn’t undermine GE’s efforts.