Debora Frodl knows something about hybrids. Frodl is the alternative fuels maven and chief strategy officer at GE Capital Fleet Services. Her clients are car and truck fleet operators. For some time now, they’ve been asking about hybrids, electric vehicles and car and trucks powered by alternatives to gas and diesel like compressed and liquefied natural gas. Which make should they buy and which fuel to use? “It’s happening,” Frodl says. “They see the total cost of ownership, beyond the ticket price.”
Frodl and her team had an idea. Let’s build a test center where early adopters like FedEx take hybrids and EVs for a spin. The concept is now reality. GE’s “Vehicle Innovation Center,” as it is called, opens for business today in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Customers can test on a private GE track Chevy Volts, Nissan Leafs and other autos, trucks and hybrids powered by electricity, natural gas, and hydrogen.
The new center fits well with GE’s ecomagination platform, which takes on environmental problems with innovative solutions that foster business advantage and economic growth. Keshav Sondhi, chief engineer at FedEx, agrees. “Electric and natural gas vehicles are helping us increase efficiencies – such as lower fuel costs – while improving environmental performance,” he says.