General Electric Co. and Nissan Motor Co. said they signed a two-year research and development agreement to speed infrastructure improvements and spur electric car sales.
GE may lease vehicle batteries to electric-car buyers, joining other companies looking to get more people to buy alternative-energy automobiles. GE makes batteries and is one of the biggest investors in Massachusetts-based battery maker A123 Systems Inc.
A battery leasing program is a venture that could allow GE to show off its range of businesses, from its industrial core which could be influential in manufacturing the batteries, to its GE Capital finance arm which could support the leasing.
GE did not comment on how far along GE is in its consideration of leasing, and did not provide a timetable for entering the business.
GE has a 6 percent stake in A123, a 10-year-old lithium-ion battery maker that went public in 2009, as a position GE can use as it digs deeper into the electric-vehicle market.
Talk about electric-vehicle battery leasing has come up in the auto industry in recent years as top automakers unveiled plans to launch vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and General Motors Co's Chevrolet Volt. A variety of companies, including Palo Alto, California-based Better Place and Nissan, have proposed battery leasing programs as a way to ease anxiety about electric cars.