GE's New Vehicle Innovation Center Part of a Global Initiative
GE took the next step in its long-term commitment to accelerate the use of alternative-fuel vehicles by opening a Vehicle Innovation Center at the headquarters of GE Capital Fleet Services. A second center opens in Germany later this year.
GE's new Vehicle Innovation Center.
General Electric’s first-ever Vehicle Innovation Center, which opened May 31, 2012, is located on the headquarters campus of its GE Capital Fleet Services business unit in Eden Prairie, Minn. The Vehicle Innovation Center is designed to allow GE fleet customers to gain first-hand experience in the operation of electric, natural gas, propane autogas, hydrogen, and other alternative-fuel vehicle types.
“What started out as a simple vision for us to accelerate the adoption of alternative-fuel vehicles has morphed into this building behind us,” said Clarence Nunn, president and CEO of GE Capital Fleet Services, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of the Vehicle Innovation Center in Eden Prairie. “Through our Vehicle Innovation Center, we are committed to sharing alternative-fuel vehicle technologies and solutions with our customers and helping them put more of these vehicles on the road.”
The opening of the Vehicle Innovation Center is part of GE’s ecomagination business strategy to accelerate the development and deployment of clean-energy technology through innovation and R&D investment. GE Capital Fleet Services will run the newly opened center in collaboration with other GE businesses, along with GE Energy and Transportation subject-matter experts around the world.
Clarence Nunn, president and CEO of GE Capital Fleet Services, addressed the crowd during the grand opening of the Vehicle Innovation Center.
“We believe businesses, through their company fleets, can lead the way in putting drivers across the country and around the world into cleaner, more productive vehicles,” said Deb Frodl, chief strategy officer for GE Capital Fleet Services and global alternative-fuel leader for GE. “The best way to accelerate the adoption of alternative-fuel cars and trucks is to experience them. Once fleet managers get behind the wheel, they can see that these vehicles are real and ready for action.”
The creation of a Vehicle Innovation Center was the vision of Frodl, who wanted to give fleet managers a first-hand opportunity to see and experience electric cars and trucks from a variety of manufacturers. Frodl noted that the center is a reality because of strong collaboration by the global GE team.
“Many fleet managers need to experience alternative-fuel vehicles firsthand, and the Vehicle Innovation Center will allow them to do so in one location,” Frodl explained.
In addition, the Vehicle Innovation Center will allow fleet managers to analyze vehicle performance, driver experiences, service requirements, and operational efficiencies, as well as showcase GE’s enabling technologies, such as the WattStation, a Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charging platform developed by GE Energy.
The Vehicle Innovation Center also highlights recharging technology. A nearby solar-powered EV charging station can charge 11 vehicles simultaneously. The Vehicle Innovation Center in Munich will feature windmill power at its charging station.
In addition to the Vehicle Innovation Center in Eden Prairie, GE will open a second center at its Global Research Center in Munich, Germany, scheduled to become operational in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Both Vehicle Innovation Centers are designed to provide customers, employees, and researchers first-hand access to EVs and emerging technologies. Both centers will monitor and evaluate vehicle performance, charging behaviors, driver experiences, service requirements, and operational efficiencies, while providing the opportunity to test drive different alternative-fuel models from a variety of OEMs and gain insights about what is involved in deploying the vehicles in commercial fleet operations.
Construction of the Vehicle Innovation Center in Minnesota broke ground in September 2011; however, the genesis of the concept goes back to November 2010 when GE Corp. announced it will purchase 25,000 alternative-fuel vehicles by 2015 for its own fleet and its global fleet customers. The initiative calls for GE to convert at least half of its 30,000-unit global fleet and partner with fleet customers to deploy a total of 25,000 alternative-fuel vehicles by 2015. Since 2011, GE employee drivers have already logged more than 8.5 million miles in electric vehicles in real-world fleet applications.
“This is a global initiative. GE is in a strong position to help deploy the supporting infrastructure to help our 65,000 global fleet customers convert and manage their fleets,” said Frodl, who also heads the strategy team focusing on GE’s alternative-fuel initiative.