GE Links With Juice for Smart Electric Vehicle Charging

UPDATED: General Electric (s GE) plans to get into smart charging for electric vehicles in a big way this year, and it’s partnering with 2-year-old Juice Technologies to do it. This morning the companies announced a joint development agreement to create charging devices that will integrate with GE’s smart meters and Juice’s Plug Smart intelligent charging system, helping drivers to juice up their batteries when power grid demands and electricity rates are lower (see our list of 10 Electric Car Smart Charging Players to Watch). According to today’s release, “initial” chargers under the agreement will roll out in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, “with full-scale production ramping up throughout the year.” Down the road, GE and Juice are targeting global distribution.

According to Thomas Hurkmans, co-founder and chief financial officer for Juice, whose products carry the brand Plug Smart, today’s deal is exclusive. “Every time GE builds a smart charging system for electric vehicles,” he said, “it will be with us.” GE has agreed to work with Juice and finance the development and manufacturing of EV charging systems, which will be co-branded and “sold through multiple channels,” including GE’s network.

Hurkmans told us this morning the deal with GE represents “a very significant milestone for the company,” partly because of GE’s role as an influential player in energy markets, and because GE is investing a “significant” amount of funding for the project. Juice CEO Rich Housh explained in today’s announcement that Juice has collaborated with Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research “We’ve collaborated with utilities and with utilities and Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research over the last two years to develop its technology, and this “collaboration with GE gives us the expertise we need to bring our solutions to market.”

Juice has also hit other major milestones in recent months. Most notably, a “major consumer electronics company” with “a billion-dollar revenue business has taken an equity interest” in Juice, according to Hurkmans. More details will be released in 6-8 weeks, said Hurkmans, but he said Juice and its new investor will be working on low-cost home energy management systems. The investment is big enough that Juice will not need to raise additional funds in the near future, Hurkmans said. “I don’t think we need it.”

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Juice spun out of a company called BottomLine Resource Technologies in early 2008. It now has “dozens” of utility partners (including San Diego Gas & Electric, which tapped Juice last summer for mobile charger tech to demo as part of a massive government-backed EV infrastructure trial), and a staff of just 15 people, said Hurkmans. “Scaling up of the head count is not really necessary,” he said. “The heavy lifting can be done by our partners. We don’t plan on having hundreds of people.”

Update: A GE spokepserson has provided us with some more details on how the conglomerate will be working with Juice. “GE is designing and manufacturing the chargers as well as contributing all the metering and communication technologies between the utility and the charging device,” she told us in an email this morning. Juice, meanwhile, will contribute all the technology facing an end-user through its Plug Smart “web portal application.” This online system “will allow the plug-in electric vehicle owner to schedule specific times to charge.”

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