and General Electric each have a few horses in the race when it comes to alternative fuel vehicles.
Ford, on the other hand, is launching a total of six EVs across the U.S. and Europe. The carmaker already has a partnership with Leviton for its consumer car sales, but will market GE’s Wattstation EV charger for commercial applications as part of the new collaboration.
As part of GE’s push to overhaul its own fleet, the company will purchase 2,000 Ford C-MAX Energi cars. Just as GE is also purchasing other EVs, the partnership with Ford is hardly exclusive. The announcement is the first agreement of a commercial charging partnership for Ford, but it might not be the last.
The agreement also involves research projects, including research at Georgia Tech to study the driving and charging habits of GE drivers. General Electric also has its own Vehicle Innovation Center, which will use some Ford cars for its customers to test alternative fuel vehicles.
“Understanding driving and charging habits is key to advancing vehicle and charging infrastructure,” says Professor Bert Bras of the Sustainable Design & Manufacturing laboratory at Georgia Tech. “Through access to vehicle data, we can accelerate research and development of new technologies to further improve efficiency, driver satisfaction and environmental benefits.”
Ford and GE are hardly alone. For every company with a stake in the EV game, whether it's the vehicles or supporting infrastructure, there is usually at least one partnership. Charging companies look for shelf space at big-box stores and partnerships with carmakers. Power electronics companies like ABB are also teaming up with carmakers and utilities to investigate a second life for the car batteries.
One of the most important factors in the success of EVs and plug-in hybrids will likely be on-board telematics that can tell people how their battery is performing. Ford announced earlier this month its SmartGauge feature for its plug-in hybrids that allow the cars to learn frequent destinations to maximize the use of the electric-only mode.
This is another area where partnerships abound. Duke Energy, which is working with GE and Ford, is also working with Toyota on a different pilot. Honda has joined with IBM and Pacific Gas & Electric.
All of these collaborations, and probably many more to come, could be an exercise in futility. Or if electrified personal transportation takes off, they will be key to the future of mobility.