GM, GE Pick Partners for Residential Electric Vehicle Charger Installations

Oct. 8, 2010
General Motors and General Electric made announcements over the past week about their residential electric vehicle servicing equipment (EVSE) offerings

General Motors and General Electric made announcements over the past week about their residential electric vehicle servicing equipment (EVSE) offerings, and the announcements included interesting approaches to getting the chargers installed in car-buyers’ garages.

GE rolled out the residential version of its Yves Behar-designed WattStation charger, which is a 240V Level II charging station capable of topping-off a depleted 24kWh vehicle battery in as little as four hours. The commercial or public pedestal version of the WattStation was introduced in July to much fanfare. The residential version is wall-mounted and has systems built-in for communication with smart meters and other smart-grid systems to allow utilities to manage the impact of electric vehicle charging on local and regional grids.

Installation will be handled in partnership with, a website for connecting consumers with contractors and other service professionals. The online service provides a sort of limited reverse auction in which people who need a job done — home remodeling, heating, plumbing, cleaning, etc. — can post their job and receive up to four bids. The service providers are screened by ServiceMagic, including criminal background checks and state-level license and insurance verifications, and they’re reviewed and rated by previous customers.

The site has 9,100 electrical contractors among its 80,000 approved service professionals, according to Brooke Gabbert, senior manager of public relations for ServiceMagic. The deal with GE provides a dedicated web portal and a toll-free phone number for EV drivers who want to install a WattStation charger in their garages. They will be connected with up to four electricians in their area who have asked to be part of the bidding process and pay ServiceMagic a lead fee for each inquiry.

GE’s WattStation will be commercially available in 2011, just as the first wave of new electric and plug-in hybrid cars hits the market. Demand will be concentrated in the markets where the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota’s plug-in Prius will debut, primarily on the West Coast, in the Northeast, Florida and Texas. Gabbert says those areas are well-covered by ServiceMagic’s service pros already, but a company sales team and alliances with smaller local service networks will fill any gaps.

ServiceMagic is working with GE to develop specialized training for its contractor members who want to do the installations. GE Capital will also work with ServiceMagic to arrange financing options to enable homeowners to pay for the charger and installation costs over time.

ServiceMagic was launched in 1999 and acquired in 2004 by InterActiveCorp, which also owns websites such as,,, and The Daily Beast.

GM’s Chevrolet division said it will partner with SPX Service Solutions, Warren, Mich., to handle the installations of a new 240V residential EV charger dubbed the Voltec. SPX Service Solutions, a division of the giant engineering, manufacturing and service conglomerate SPX, Charlotte, N.C., covers 15 countries and a plethora of niches clustered around vehicle servicing, including diagnostic products, specialty tools and shop equipment as well as technical support and maintenance services.

According to the company’s website at, SPX Service Solutions operates a network of independent electrical contractors trained and certified to install electric vehicle charging systems.

In the partnership with GM, buyers of the soon-to-be-launched Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car will be able to buy the Voltec charger at the same time at a price of $490 before installation. SPX Service Solutions won’t be limited to offering the GM-branded product, but can install a variety of other home charging stations. The company will manage all aspects of installation for Volt owners, including the home survey, installation, permitting, Department of Energy and utility coordination, and identification of available programs and incentives for reduced charging rates, GM said in a release.

The 240V Voltec charging system can charge a depleted Volt’s battery in four hours, compared to 10 hours it would take using a standard 110V source. GM estimated installation costs at $1,475 but said it “can vary based upon electrical requirements.”

Customers will be able to upload photos of their garage and electric service panels through a web interface, and SPX contractors will conduct an on-site survey, provide a quote, secure the necessary permits, perform the installation and assist with the inspection. With SPX installation, the equipment also includes a three-year warranty.

The growth of the EVSE market is a welcome dose of vitality amid the sluggish overall economy, say the many electrical manufacturers getting into the EVSE equipment market. EV chargers were prominently displayed in many booths at this week’s annual show of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) in Boston, said Mike Eby, chief editor of EC&M.