Google-liveried 2012 Mitsubishi iEnlarge Photo
Just before the holidays at the end of last year, Google welcomed the first 2012 Ford Focus Electric to roll off the production lines into its ever-expanding G Fleet of plug-in and hybrid cars.
Google’s G Fleet now includes the 2012 Nissan Leaf, 2012 Chevrolet Volt, and various Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids, not to mention pre-production 2012 Honda Fit EVs.
But why does Google seem to get electric cars well before anyone else? And just what exactly is a software company doing testing electric cars for the auto industry?
However unfair it may seem, Google’s fleet of plug-in vehicles is impressive. And here are five reasons why Google gets the cars before everyone else does.
Electric Cars Perfectly Fit Google’s Image
Ask most members of the public their impression of Google, and you’re likely to find a high proportion respond with Google’s motto: Don’t Be Evil.
Except for a few exceptions, Google seems to follow that motto in its everyday activities.
In the case of green transportation, Don’t Be Evil fits plug-in cars perfectly, thanks to lower tailpipe emissions and less reliance on foreign oil.
In short, electric cars are perfect for Google’s nerdy, do-no-wrong image.
Google Has Invested Heavily In Plug-in Cars
It isn’t just an image thing however: back in 2007, Google started the RechargeIT project, aimed to help demonstrate plug-in electric car technology and help accelerate its adoption.
Google's Electric Vehicle Fleet Infrastructure
Google's Electric Vehicle Fleet InfrastructureEnlarge Photo
At the time, there were no plug-in vehicles on the market, so Google had some of its existing fleet of hybrid vehicles converted to plug-in hybrids in order to examine the improvements in gas milage and emissions that could be made when converted with a conventional gasoline and hybrid cars.
Since then, Google has also invested over $1 billion in clean energy investments, including startup electric car firms, advocacy groups and charging infrastructure firms.
Google Makes For Great Free Advertising
Not everyone who uses the Internet will have heard of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, 2012 Nissan Leaf or other plug-in cars. But almost everyone will have heard of Google.
And because Google’s G Fleet offers Google employees free use of their cars both on and off campus, any electric car used in the G Fleet is bound to educate both Google employees, their families and local communities about electric cars.
If Google gets the cars before anyone else, it can help advertise both locally and globally to help drive sales among private car buyers.
Google’s Employees Make Great Beta Testers
Google funding development of plug-in hybrids
Google funding development of plug-in hybridsEnlarge Photo
Since Google is mainly a software company and Internet search giant, most of its employees are software engineers.
Why is that important? In a word, beta testing.
With its large numbers of software-engineers and pro-plug-in car attitude, Google offers the perfect test bed for automakers needing controlled, real-world testing.
And because Google’s engineers are well-versed in bug-testing, automakers benefit from accurate feedback when things go wrong, enabling automakers to tweak software and hardware before the vehicles become mainstream.
Google Wants To Develop Software For Electric Cars
You may not know it, but Microsoft already develops a whole host of products which are used in the automotive industry. In fact, both the 2012 Ford Focus Electric and the 2012 Nissan Leaf feature technology developed by Microsoft.
NYT tests Google's autonomous Toyota Prius
NYT tests Google's autonomous Toyota Prius
Google wants to emulate Microsoft’s involvement in the automotive sector, developing both hardware and software solutions for the automotive industry.
As anyone who has witnessed Google’s self-driving Priuses will tell you, Google is well on its way to becoming the go-to firm when it comes to automotive computerized intelligence.
Focusing that development on plug-in cars is a natural progression for a company so enamored with plug-in cars, and google’s previous experience with plug-in cars provides essential experience that other software firms may not have yet.