GE has announced that it is getting together with Project Better Place, a Silicon Valley startup. GE wants to promote their charging station and Project Better Place envisions a network of battery charging and exchange sites.
GE brings financial bona fides and a desire to impact the EV market to the union, so it may be a combination whose time has come.
The WattStation is GE’s trump card in their electric car hand. It was designed by Yves Behar, an award-winning industrial designer who counts Apple and Hewlett Packard among his clients. The trim and clean design of Behar’s creation beckons a stark contrast to the gasoline service station of today.
The alliance may mean that the two companies are hedging their bets on just how electric vehicle owners will renew power. Project Better Place intends to market service plans which would enable consumers to stop by their stations to swap their depleted batteries for fully charged ones. This would be a less expensive alternative to buying costly lithium-ion batteries.
According to a DailyFinance article, Better Place has designed a system of robots for the removal and replacement of the power packs. But as any automotive person can attest, the industry is seldom uniform from brand to brand which usually creates huge inventory demands. In this scenario it might also test the robotic intelligence of its installers.
These facts may justify the company’s need to raise $350 million earlier this year and over $335 million for projects in Israel and Denmark. But the agreement with GE means that anything that falls beyond the company’s ability to replace could be charged on site. For GE it could be about being where the action is, which is in this case is a battery renewal site.
What is exciting to me is that fuel acquisition may be coming full circle. Although the gas-and-go platform that replaced full-service gasoline may have miles and miles to go before it sleeps, there is another smarter and cleaner way to renew power on the way.
Pike Research, which was cited by DailyFinance, estimates that there will be 974,000 charging stations installed in the U.S. by 2015 and 36 percent will be non-residential. This would represent a huge opportunity for commercial activity centered on the battery site.