GM plans to go fully electric with its cars by 2035. With billions in planned investments, one of Detroit’s legacy car makers looks to cement its future.
GM plans to shift the company to building only fully electric cars by the year 2035. The decade-plus push is a major shift for the company away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. An even more lofty target of becoming a fully carbon neutral company is set for 2040. The company said it plans to invest $27 billion into electric cars in the next five years alone. Over that time period, GM will look to add 2,700 new fast charging stations powered exclusively by renewable energy sources. Another facet of GM’s electrification plan will include a new battery production facility in Ohio.
This electrification plan comes after decades in which GM has lobbied against more stringent emission and fuel efficiency regulations. Most recently, the company sided with the Trump administration and joined a lawsuit against California’s stricter fuel-economy requirements. Following Pres. Biden’s election however, GM CEO Mary Barra announced the company’s withdrawal from the California suit and, at the end of January, announced the company’s major EV initiative.
The source of GM’s change of heart can likely be attributed to two factors: Pres. Biden’s election and climate change. The first makes real the prospect of much more aggressive policy making and regulation meant to address climate change compared to either the Obama or Trump administrations. GM’s calculus is likely to get out ahead of future legislation by fully embracing EVs. The second factor, the manifestations of climate change becoming less and less deniable with each passing season. Global and even US skepticism about the realities of climate change have been steadily eroding. The combination of an untenable PR position (like opposing California’s fuel-economy standards) and looming regulations seem to have goosed GM and the rest of the auto industry into embracing alternatives to fossil fuels.
We’ve already caught glimpses of the GM electric fleet with the updated 2022 Bolt EV and GMC Hummer EV debuting this year, and Cadillac LYRIQ electric crossover slated for 2022. A big chunk of the $27 billion in electrification investments will be going toward the development of up to 20 new EVs by 2023 and 30 by 2025.
How GM gets to 30 new EVs by 2025 is through its new Ultium platform that will undergird most of this burgeoning electric fleet. The Ultium modular platform battery pack will range in size from 50 to 200 kWh. The high end 200 kWh battery will be featured in the GMC Hummer, Chevy and GMC trucks, and other large vehicles. Currently, EV truck maker Rivian has set a target of 180kWh for their largest battery pack while Tesla’s largest is 100kWh. The new battery, developed in partnership with LG Chem, will use 70% less cobalt and feature fast-charging capabilities (at least in the larger versions) of 800 volts at a rate of 350kW.
GM isn’t the only company making big moves toward electrification. Ford, Volkswagen, Volvo, and many others are pouring billions into EV development and manufacturing. VW Group says it plans to spend $88 billion over the next five years on its own electrification push. Volvo announced last week that they plan to be fully electric within the decade. And Tesla is currently the phenom of the industry with a market valuation, depending on where the market is, of roughly $750 billion or ten times that of GM.
With those kinds of numbers at play, it’s clear that GM, and the rest of the auto industry, is serious about making the leap from traditional internal combustion engines and toward full-scale electrification. While the pledge of 2,700 new charging stations from GM is nice, much of the shift to electrification in our transportation sector will depend on smart partnerships between industry and government to scale up the power grid and ensure that workable infrastructure is in place. Because, with plans like GMs out there, the future is coming fast. Let’s hope we’re ready.