When General Motors announced last week that they plan to become a carbon neutral company by the year 2040, more than a few people were riled up online. As our colleagues over at The Drive have pointed out, folks were frustrated with reporting that stated GM has no plans to build gasoline-powered machines past the year 2035. Instead, the automaker was thought to be committed to solely selling electric vehicles. While it is understandable that people might take what General Motors said to represent that EV-centric business plan, it isn’t technically what the announcement stated. Here is a bit more of a nuanced look as to what this transition will actually look like.
As our report last week noted, GM’s press release states that they “aspire” to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035. From a syntactical point of view, this is a bit of technicality, but it does matter. Furthermore, the term light-duty vehicles specifically relates to passenger cars and trucks that weigh in at or under 6,000 pounds.
According to the automaker, these vehicles are responsible for 75 percent of GM’s emissions output globally every year. What this statement doesn’t make any mention of is heavy duty vehicles, like large HD pickups, which are quintessentially American vehicles.
The company has made official commitments as it relates to the proliferation of electric vehicles however. As you may already know, GM plans to invest $27 billion in EV and autonomous vehicle development over the next five years. Furthermore, the automaker states that 40 percent of the company’s U.S. models will be electric vehicles by the end of 2025.
While some might argue that this isn’t a full blown commitment, vehicle development cycles suggest otherwise. With 30 new electric vehicles slated to debut globally by 2025, GM’s engineers are clearly focused on bringing EVs to market. This is helped along by the fact that all of GM’s future electric vehicles will share the same Ultium Battery platform.
As The Drive pointed out, you could also argue that this timeline is unreasonable based on GM’s current EV lineup. If you went to a local dealership today, the only GM-built EV you could drive away with is the Chevy Bolt. Not exactly a high volume seller.
That said, we already know models like the GMC Hummer EV, Silverado EV, and Cadillac Lyriq are on the way, while the company has found ways to shave off significant mounts of time in regards to product development, with the Hummer being the best example. The program was conceived in April 2019. By the end of the year, the first Hummer EV Edition 1 electric pickup trucks will be in the hands of a few quick-draw customers who were able to reserve one online. This level of expediency has never before been seen from GM, or any automaker this big, and it deserves a lot of commendation.
Learnings from the Hummer EV program are bound to feed into upcoming electric vehicle programs. And if the company’s high-budget appearance at CES 2021 showed us anything, it is that GM is working on several EV concepts right now.
Why It’s For Real This Time
Interestingly enough, electric vehicle fans are also a bit upset with GM about this announcement. They point to the fact that GM has ditched their EV-related efforts in the past when the going got tough. They also point to the company’s constant political flip-flopping when it comes to emissions regulations, under both Obama and Trump, and now again under President Biden.
We are all for sticking to your word, but this line of thinking ignores the industry as a whole. You can say that GM stinks and that this is all for social media cred in the United States all you want, but General Motors doesn’t just sell cars in the States.
Governments across the globe, including in China and Europe, have made their deadlines for ICE vehicles well known. Sure this might change as we move closer to those deadlines, but a company like GM can’t gamble on a possible policy shift.
As GM tries to cash in on developed markets outside of their home country, it has to make the move to EVs. Take a look around at what other manufacturers are planning, and it’s clear that it isn’t just General Motors making this massive transition.
So no, technically GM won’t offer only electric vehicles by 2035. Yet the vast majority of their lineup will be powered by batteries nonetheless. In order to fund those endeavors, you can bet that GM’s full-size SUVs and pickup truck will remain a focal point in the coming years. Regardless of the specifics of the announcement, General Motors has stated their intentions.
Things might change, but that won’t be because GM is trying to pull a fast one of you.