June 12, 2008 - 2:32 pm ET
WASHINGTON -- General Electric is interested in supplying components for plug-in hybrid vehicles and is teaming with Chrysler on a project to demonstrate a technology GE calls a dual-battery energy storage system.
Vlatko Vlatkovic, a GE official, told Automotive News today that the company has developed a hybrid railroad locomotive -- which he compared to a "6,000-horsepower Prius on rails" -- and is working on a heavy-duty, off-highway hybrid truck.
"A lot of these technologies are really synergistic to what the automotives need, and we can work together with the automotives in partnership to see how we can advance these technologies further," he said.
Vlatkovic is global technology leader of electronics and energy conversion at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, N.Y.
He called the automotive sector for GE "a new space that we are convinced will grow." GE can offer expertise in batteries, drivetrains and power electronic controls, he added.
Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli is a former GE executive.
Plug-in hybrid power suddenly is the most talked-about advanced vehicle technology. This week, it was the subject of a major Washington conference.
The U.S. Department of Energy used the occasion to announce a relatively modest $30 million in grants to help companies develop plug-in hybrid technology. The main recipients are General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and General Electric.
GM plans to have the plug-in hybrid Chervolet Volt on the market in 2010. Toyota Motor Corp. says it will have a plug-in for fleets in 2010. Ford is deploying a small fleet of demonstration vehicles in Southern California.
A tie with deep-pocketed GE would appear to give Chrysler LLC a boost in the race.
A plug-in hybrid would have a more robust battery pack than a traditional gasoline-electric hybrid. In theory, with recharging from electrical outlets, a plug-in vehicle could operate much longer on electric-only power than other hybrids.
Proponents contend that an all-electric range of 40 miles would satisfy the daily needs of most drivers, giving them the equivalent of 100 mpg or more and dramatically cutting petroleum demands.
This week, Bill Reinert, national manager of the advanced technology group for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., warned that some owners may be disappointed with the real-world fuel economy of plug-in hybrids, just as regular hybrids have disappointed some buyers.
Reinert was on a panel at the conference on plug-ins, organized by the Brookings Institution think tank and Google.com.