General Motors and General Electric made announcements about their residential electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) offerings, and the announcements included interesting approaches to getting the chargers installed in car-buyers' garages.

GE rolled out the residential version of its Yves Behar-designed WattStation charger, which is a 240V Level II charging station capable of topping-off a depleted 24kWh vehicle battery in as little as four hours. The commercial or public pedestal version of the WattStation was introduced in July to much fanfare. The residential version is wall-mounted and has systems built-in for communication with smart-grid systems to allow utilities to manage the impact of electric vehicle charging on local and regional grids.

Installation will be handled in partnership with ServiceMagic.com, a website for connecting consumers with contractors and other service professionals. The online service provides a sort of limited reverse auction in which people who need a job done — home remodeling, heating, plumbing, cleaning, etc. — can post their job and receive up to four bids. The service providers are screened by ServiceMagic, including criminal background checks and state-level license and insurance verifications, and they're reviewed and rated by previous customers.

The site has 9,100 electrical contractors among its 80,000 approved service professionals, according to Brooke Gabbert, senior manager of public relations for ServiceMagic. The deal with GE provides a dedicated web portal and a toll-free phone number for EV drivers who want to install a WattStation charger in their garages. They will be connected with up to four electricians in their area who have asked to be part of the bidding process and pay ServiceMagic a lead fee for each inquiry.

GE's WattStation will be commercially available in 2011. ServiceMagic is working with GE to develop specialized training for its contractor members who want to do the installations. GE Capital will also work with ServiceMagic to arrange financing options to enable homeowners to pay for the charger and installation costs over time.

GM's Chevrolet division said it will partner with SPX Service Solutions, Warren, Mich., to handle the installations of a new 240V residential EV charger dubbed the Voltec. SPX Service Solutions, a division of the conglomerate SPX, operates a network of independent electrical contractors trained and certified to install electric vehicle charging systems. In the partnership with GM, buyers of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car will be able to buy the Voltec charger at the same time at a price of $490 before installation. SPX SS will manage all aspects of installation for Volt owners, including the home survey, installation, permitting, utility coordination, and identification of available programs and incentives for reduced charging rates.

The 240V Voltec charging system can charge a depleted Volt's battery in four hours, compared to 10 hours it would take using a standard 110V source.