General Electric intends to be the leader in smart grid charging of electric vehicles. GE’s Watt Station EV Charger was personally unveiled today by CEO Jeff Immelt. Globally, GE already helps thousands of electric utilities be more efficient in generating power and in distributing power. With a growing family of smart grid solutions including smart charging of vehicles, GE will help utilities lead in the intelligent generation, management, transmission, distribution, and use of energy. Mr. Immelt refers to this as Digital Energy.
After attending the presentation by Jeff Immelt and other luminaries, I was able to talk with Michael Mahan, GE’s Global Product Manager of EVSE.
The GE Watt Station is the first in a family of vehicle smart charging products and services from GE. It will be piloted this year at commercial sites and universities such as Purdue and the University of California San Diego. Within a couple of months we will see the announcement of a GE home plug-in car charger. These products will be made available commercially in 2011 simultaneously in all markets including the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
Although GE’s press release positioned the Watt Station as having a faster charging rate than some competitive offerings, this Level 2 220 volt / 32 amp smart charger delivers electrons at the same speed as other Level 2 chargers such as Coulomb Technologies, Aerovironment, and Ecotality. These competitors have the early lead in installing 15,000 charging stations in the United States. GE is taking a fast-follower strategy with the intent of being the market leader.
The Watt Station complies with J1772 smart charging standards. Its attractive design will appeal to consumers, with a simply friendly interface and retractable cord protected inside the supporting pole. The Watt Station is modular and upgradeable. It can be purchased with an optional credit card reader, or that can be added later. Watt Stations also have optional smart suite communications to utilize smart metering and wireless AMI.
Where GE does have competitive advantage is in its long-term relationship with utilities, its family of end-to-end system solutions, its partnerships, and its financial prowess. Communities littered with last decades charging stations, some no longer working from bankrupt companies will find comfort in the GE brand.
As global electric utilities modernize and embrace the added opportunity of transportation that depends less of petroleum and inefficient engines, and more on electricity and efficient electric drive systems, GE can be a major partner. Electric vehicles can be smart charged with GE charging stations, managed with GE software services. Areas with high concentration of electric vehicles can turn to GE for new substations and distribution equipment. Power plants can be upgraded with the latest GE turbines, and supplemented with GE wind turbines,, and grid storage. With a digital energy demand can be shaped off-peak.
GE also unveiled Nucleus™, an affordable, innovative communication and data storage device that provides consumers with secure information about their household electricity use and costs so they can make more informed choices about how and when to use power. Nucleus is expected to be available for consumer purchase in early 2011 at an estimated retail price of $149-$199.
GE’s Nucleus brings the promise of the smart grid into consumers’ homes. As utilities deploy smart meters, the Nucleus will collect and store a consumer’s household electricity use and cost data for up to three years and present it to consumers in real-time using simple, intuitive PC and smart phone applications, helping consumers monitor and control their energy use.
Nucleus is the first product in GE’s Brillion™ suite of smart home energy management solutions that will help consumers control their energy use and costs. In addition to Nucleus, GE’s Brillion suite will include a programmable thermostat, in-home display, a smart phone application and smart appliances for the entire home.
By 2012, US utilities are expected to install more than 40 million smart meters. These digital meters enable utilities to charge “time-of-use” rates for electricity throughout the day. When demand is low, electricity will cost less, and when demand is at its “peak,” utilities will charge more to encourage off-peak consumption.
Future Brillion options will also include alerts to assist consumers with daily tasks, such as when to change the refrigerator’s water filter or when the dryer cycle ends. Software upgrades will further enable Nucleus to monitor water, natural gas, and renewable energy sources, as well as plug-in electric vehicle charging.
GE is driving a global energy transformation with a focus on innovation and R&D investment to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology. Since its inception in 2005, 92 ecomagination products have been brought to market with revenues reaching $18 billion in 2009. With $5 billion invested in R&D its first five years, GE committed to doubling its ecomagination investment and collaborate with partners to accelerate a new era of energy innovation. The company will invest $10 billion in R&D over five years and double operational energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption.
CEO Immelt expects over 30 new ecoimagination product announcements in the next 24 months, including the GE Watt Station EV charger.
CEO Jeff Immelt said, “No one is better at commercialization better than GE.” He does recognize that the innovation for that commercialization can come from a surprising range of innovators outside of GE. He announced a stunning $200 million open innovation challenge that seeks breakthrough ideas to create a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid, and accelerate the adoption of more efficient grid technologies.
This funding from one company compares with the United States ARPA-E proposed budget of $300 million for next year.
The global challenge invites technologists, entrepreneurs and start-ups to share their best ideas and come together to take on one of the world’s toughest challenges – building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century. The challenge is one of the largest ever and is open immediately at www.ecomagination.com/challenge.
“Innovation is the engine of the global effort to transform the way we create, connect and use power,” Immelt said. “At GE we have invested broadly and deeply in digital energy solutions and see this as a substantial market for us, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with our partners to make sure we have a comprehensive digital energy offering. This challenge is about collaboration and we are inviting others to help accelerate progress in creating a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid. We want to jump-start new ideas and deploy them on a scale that will modernize the electrical grid around the world.”
The Challenge, launched in collaboration with leading venture capital firms Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB, and RockPort Capital, and Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Wired magazine, is part of GE’s ecomagination initiative, a global commitment to build innovative clean energy technologies and will help fund the most promising ideas. Proposals are sought in three, broad categories: Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings. Submissions can now be made. On September 30, the submission process closes, with awards announced on November 8, 2010.
GE is accelerating the commercialization of innovative systems that can reduce our dependency on oil, shrink our emissions of the greenhouse gases that create dangerous climate risks, and facilitate the efficient use of energy.