It's a given that big players in the auto industry eventually will snap up many of the electric drive startups, or at least license their technology. You can already see it happening with Daimler and Toyota investing in Tesla Motors and General Motors setting up its own venture capital fund.
But it would be a mistake to look only to big automotive companies. There's another big, respected player making waves in the EV pond: General Electric.
In the past few months, GE has:
-- Launched a 220-volt (Level 2) electric car charger, the WattStation.
-- Hooked up with Better Place, the battery-swapping and -recharging company, to provide financing and link charging networks
-- Said it will order "tens of thousands" of EVs for its corporate fleet. (Details -- such as which vehicles -- will come later.)
Also, GE is the biggest shareholder in battery maker A123 Systems.
According to Better Place CEO Shai Agassi, those moves are consistent with GE's past. "GE always makes money when an industry converts from molecules to electrons," Agassi said in a recent interview. He cited several examples, including the shifts from kerosene lanterns to electric lights, from vaudeville entertainment to radio (and then TV), and from medical X-rays to data files.
EVs represent a shift from petroleum fuel to, you guessed it, electrons. As Agassi put it: "We're seeing the last frontier of the transition to electrons."
Add it all up, and you've got a growing EV-segment presence. And remember, GE doesn't enter markets unless it intends to be a dominant player.