General Electric Co. is enabling buyers of its electric-vehicle charger to offer PayPal as a payment option when their customers charge their vehicles.

GE’s WattStation chargers are equipped with the WattStation Connect platform. The platform allows charger owners to use their choice of GE usage software, manage a network of chargers through the cloud, communicate with proprietary software using the charger’s application programming interface, and use the WattStation Connect mobile application that hosts PayPal’s payment platform to allow electric vehicle owners to pay for charger usage.

The mobile app is available for free at the Apple Inc. iTunes Store and will be available for Google Inc. Android devices within weeks, says Seth Cutler, lead product manager, electric vehicle infrastructure for General Electric’s Energy’s Industrial Solutions business. Cutler says it chose PayPal as the payment-option partner because, unlike card-swipe hardware, it is maintenance-free.

Each charger costs between $6,000 and $7,000, with annual software service running between $120 and $240, Cutler says. Charger buyers can include gas station operators, companies that offer charger use as an employee benefit or perk, or entrepreneurs who could buy several and start a network.

“What’s really nice about the system is that we’ve left it open for our customers,” Cutler says. “We don’t require them to accept payments on the chargers. There’ll be some people who will decide they want to leave it free and just track usage. Others will require some sort of authentication.”

PayPal charges no transaction fees when charger users pay with a PayPal balance or bank account linked to PayPal, says Scott Dunlap, vice president of emerging opportunities at the eBay Inc. payments unit.

“This integration with GE’s WattStation Connect mobile app represents PayPal’s continued efforts to make payments easy and convenient anytime, anywhere our customers want them to be,” Dunlap tells PaymentsSource via email. “This app brings us one step closer to changing the way people pay–making commerce simpler and safer for consumers and business.”

When electric-vehicle owners download the app from an app store or online, they can use it to locate the nearest WattStation charger. Once there, they can scan the quick-response code on the top of the charger to identify its usage-rate fee, if there is one.

The vehicle owner uses the app to activate the charge and to authorize the PayPal payment. The app is the only way to pay for use unless a charger owner requires customers to use a physical point of sale to pay.

The GE/PayPal partnership focuses on a customer base that is interested in and comfortable with using the latest technology, says Gil Luria, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

“This is the type of interaction you wouldn’t ordinarily have with a refueling station,” Luria says of the use of PayPal through a mobile app to pay for fuel. “What GE is doing is trying to cater to that audience of early adopters, so they’re recognizing that electric-vehicle drivers are early adopters and are, therefore, more likely to want to have this type of interaction and make that part of the experience.”

 

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