GE CEO says electric car disappointment must fade

Chevy Volt Chevy Volt

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General Electric Co Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said people "may be disappointed in the adoption of the electric vehicle" but his company will continue investing in battery technology in hopes of an eventual uptick.

Speaking during an automotive conference in Detroit on Tuesday, Immelt -- whose company is a key supplier to automakers producing electric cars -- said GE is "committed to long term development" of alternative-fuel vehicles. The executive shrugged off the perception that electric cars are just novelties and said the industry needs to find solutions to cost and infrastructure challenges.

GE, after all, has a lot riding on the success of alternative-fuel vehicles.

"For every dollar invested in electric vehicles GE has 10 cents of content," he said. "We're just going to hang on the hoop here."

Several car companies, including General Motors Co, Nissan Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Ford Motor Co and Tesla Motors Inc, have in recent years introduced cars that run partially or entirely on electric power.

Electric vehicles carry an expensive battery and typically cost more than a conventional vehicle of similar size. Sales of such vehicles have thus far been modest, and below some initial expectations.

"You never can tell when this will reach a tipping point...a lot has to happen in order for this to take place," Immelt said.

Immelt said that GE executives share a Chevrolet Volt at the company's headquarters, and said driving the vehicle is an empowering experience.

However, "the near term challenge is going to be all about cost" and infrastructure.

Immelt is convinced the market for electric vehicles will not remain a small niche. Immelt said that GE does not invest in technologies simply because they are popular trends.

"Novelties don't work in business," he said.

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