January 28th, 2021 by Zachary Shahan
We’ve been covering automakers’ electrification plans for several years. Today, we got a gem from GM. The automaker that proudly brought the Chevy Bolt EV to market before anyone else had a semi-affordable electric car on the market with that much range has now dropped a new marker in the sand. It intends to have 100% of its light-duty vehicle sales 100% electric by 2035.
I’ll be honest — I wish the target was 2030. I think it’s possible by 2030. It think any automaker who gets to 100% electric by 2030 will benefit from doing so. Nonetheless, for an automaker of this scale, 100% electric is basically the boldest we’ve seen.
GM also plans for all of its products and operations to be carbon neutral by 2040.
“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO, said. “We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”
“With this extraordinary step forward, GM is making it crystal clear that taking action to eliminate pollution from all new light-duty vehicles by 2035 is an essential element of any automaker’s business plan,” added Fred Krupp, President Environmental Defense Fund, which helped GM to formulate its plans. “EDF and GM have had some important differences in the past, but this is a new day in America — one where serious collaboration to achieve transportation electrification, science-based climate progress and equitably shared economic opportunity can move our nation forward.”
On the road to that goal, GM plans to have 40% of its models, 30 models, full battery-electric vehicles by 2025.
All of this entails an investment of $27 billion (in both electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles) in the next 5 years. That’s a $7 billion increase from what was planned before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Notably, EV market share exploded in Europe in 2020, and Tesla clearly did well globally with record sales of half a million, ongoing quarterly profits, and a rocket-like growth in market cap. Perhaps GM took all or some of those results to heart and decided to speed up its electrification efforts.
Maybe — just maybe — the company also got more concerned about the climate crisis and its role in it. In GM’s press release today, the company noted that 75% of its carbon emissions come from the use of its products, not GM’s own production or operational emissions. It’s all about all of those GM vehicles burning gas and diesel day after day on roads around the world.
As Elon Musk keeps saying, the two biggest factors in electrification of fleets around the world and the future of the automotive industry in general are autonomy and batteries. That is what GM is indeed pouring money into.
“This investment includes the continued development of GM’s Ultium battery technology, updating facilities such as Factory ZERO in Michigan and Spring Hill Manufacturing in Tennessee to build electric vehicles from globally sourced parts and investing in new sites like Ultium Cells LLC in Ohio as well as manufacturing and STEM jobs.
“More than half of GM’s capital spending and product development team will be devoted to electric and electric-autonomous vehicle programs. And in the coming years, GM plans to offer an EV for every customer, from crossovers and SUVs to trucks and sedans.”
GM plans for its US factories to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2030 and plans for all of its factories around the world to be 100% powered by renewables by 2035. I’m inclined to say that could be much sooner, and ask why it’s not. However, GM is inclined to say, “hey, we’re a leader not a laggard!” In fact, these are its actual words: “Today, GM is the 10th largest offtaker of renewable energy in the world and in 2020, the company received a 2020 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
Okay, that’s great, but I’d still like to see quicker transition. And to be fair, that’s for everyone. Even Tesla is still not 100% renewably powered, and it’s a renewable energy company. By 2030, though, I don’t see why companies can’t be renewably powered. Wind and solar are at historic low prices for electricity in general, they dominate new power capacity already, and their prices are still coming down.
Overall, though, GM is looking for kudos for its leadership on electrification and decarbonization. And it deserves it, imho.
We’ll cover more details and have more commentary later in the day and going forward. In the meantime, you can read more from GM here.
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