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GE and PayPal building electric car charging station network

Ignoring the existing electric car charging payments processing network ChargePoint, GE makes an agreement with PayPal to provide payment processing for the company's WattStation electric car charging stations.

GE Energy’s Industrial Solutions announced a deal today with PayPal to provide electric car charging station payment services to owners of GE WattStation's. Using a smart phone app, currently WattStation Connect for the iPhone, an electric car owner will be able to quickly and easily pay to use a charging station with their PayPal account, without having to maintain a membership with a charging station network.

The system is relatively simple for the electric car driver to use. He or she first locates a charging station with the WattStation Connect application, and drives to the location. The application has a map showing nearby charging stations, availability, current status, and the pricing to use that station. On the charger is a QR Code, which is one of those squares of digitalized dots that are becoming common. Using the WattStation Connect application, the car driver scans the QR Code to identify the charging station, and view its pricing structure. If everything is agreeable, the EV driver begins the charging session, with payments being made through PayPal. The company is expected, in the future, to provide an RFID WattStation card that will be connected with the card holders PayPal account.

"Our full line of EV charging solutions is designed with the end user top of mind,” said Michael Mahan, product general manager, EV infrastructure for GE Energy's Industrial Solutions business. “This collaborative agreement with PayPal enables us to offer EV drivers a convenient way to charge their vehicles, which is essential to nurturing the mass adoption of EVs in the future."

This move by GE is an effort to establish a distinct electric car charging payment network, separate from the ones operated by ECOtality (Blink) and Coulomb (ChargePoint). The primary business for both of those companies is a payments processing system for electric car charging. GE has a complete service offering, giving businesses the opportunity to buy GE WattStations for commercial deployment, manage those stations using a cloud service over the Internet, set pricing for each station. This is exactly Coulomb's business model, in which any business may connect charging stations to the ChargePoint network and receive business from ChargePoint members.

The wallmounted WattStation is aimed solely at individual electric car owners to use for home charging. The pedestal mounted GE WattStation is the model targeted to business customers. It is connected to the Internet to enable remote management, and has a modular design allowing easy servicing via field replacing of modules. These stations can be configured for private access, such as when a company would offer electric car charging as an employee perk, or for public access charging.

“Simplicity and convenience are key to mass adoption of any new technology, something we know well at PayPal,” said Scott Dunlap, vice president of emerging opportunities at PayPal. “Together with GE Energy’s Industrial Solutions business, we’ve made recharging your electric vehicle easier than filling a gas tank. We are pleased to be a part of this important initiative.”

In effect GE is setting up another electric car charging station network in competition with existing charging station networks. By collaborating with PayPal for payments processing GE is avoiding not only the incumbent ChargePoint and Blink charging station networks but also avoids the traditional credit card networks. It means that electric car owners will have yet another charging station choice, and when the GE WattStation card becomes available it will mean carrying yet another card to access charging station services.