GM Plans to Switch to Electric Vehicles by 2035

General Motors made a surprise announcement this week, saying that it will solely offer electric light-duty vehicles by 2035 as a part of a pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2040. This means that its light-duty lineup — the crucial distinction here — is expected to become electric by that year, and GM will also take steps to switch to 100% renewable energy at its U.S. plants even sooner, by 2030.

The bold announcement comes just days after GM unveiled an updated logo, designed to reflect its aspiration to become a carbon-neutral automaker, and amid an acceleration of development of its EV lineup, the latest crop of which will arrive later this year in the form of the relaunched Hummer sub-brand.

“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” said Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO. “We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”

The announcement also comes just weeks after GM sketched out its plans for the Ultium electric battery and drivetrain, making a bet on Cadillac to be among the first GM vehicles to use the Ultium drivetrain, scheduled to enter into production next year. The Cadillac Lyriq is expected to have more than a 300-mile range when it goes on sale, drawing juice from a battery with about a 100-kWh capacity. The Lyriq will also be offered in rear- and all-wheel drive variants, and will feature DC fast charging capability.

More GM vehicles are expected to use Ultium, and the automaker showed five of them late last year. But the first, of course, is the Hummer lineup, with the first vehicles due on sale later in 2021. In all, the automaker plans to offer 30 battery-electric models by the middle of this decade, aiming to offer 40% of its lineup as BEVs by the end of 2025. Overall, GM plans to offer EVs in every customer segment, from sedans to crossovers to SUVs.

Of course, GM makes more than just light-duty vehicles, so medium and heavy-duty trucks are expected to keep their gas and diesel powerplants a while longer. But just how much longer is an open question.

More than just a plan to switch to EVs, General Motors said that it has partnered with the Environmental Defense Fund to plan out its carbon-neutral strategy over the next two decades.

“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,” said Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp. “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.”

GM also plans to invest $27 in electric vehicles and autonomous technology, the company said, raising the investment from $20 billion, the amount planned before the pandemic. This investment will, of course, include development of its Ultium battery technology, and also the operations of its factories in the U.S.

“To account for the expected remaining carbon emissions, GM expects to invest in carbon credits or offsets,” the automaker noted. “The company will assess credit and offset solutions in the coming years as the most efficient, equitable and inclusive ideas mature. The company recognizes that offsets must be used sparingly and should reflect a holistic view of mitigating the effects of climate change and helping people thrive around the world.”

The plan raises the question of whose vehicles countries that don’t have a rate of EV adoption on par with the U.S. will be buying in the late 2030s. This issue is suspected to have kept most Japanese automakers out of the EV game to this date, because they have to account for the market share in countries (and entire continents) where EV are much rarer than in western Europe, for example.

GM’s plan is also seen as being based on expectations of EV adoption here at home in 15 years, expectations that in the past decade reversed sharply after 2015, in favor of larger SUVs and crossovers amid cheap gasoline and an economic recovery. The market share of EVs has certainly increased in the past five years, but still hovers below 4% in the U.S. Needless to say, that market share will have to grow by significant amounts every year between now and 2035.

Is GM’s plan to offer solely electric light-duty vehicles by 2035 realistic, or will there still be significant demand for gas-engined vehicles by that year? Sign up for comments and let us know your thoughts on this plan.

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