US auto giant General Motors has vowed to ditch petrol and diesel from all its light-duty vehicle offerings by 2035, it announced on Thursday (US time), just days after president Joe Biden said he would convert the entire governmnt fleet to electric.
Currently, 75% of the company’s entire carbon emissions are tied up in the use of the very product it exists to sell: cars fuelled by petrol and diesel fuel.
With electric vehicle pioneer Tesla now the world’s most valuable car-maker by market cap, it is becoming increasingly obvious to legacy auto giants such as GM that they must transition if they are to survive.
The new goal is significant in that it is part of a wider plan announced by the auto company that will see it set science-based targets to reach for carbon-neutral status by 2040.
This is a full ten years ahead of the 2050 goal targeted by numerous jurisdictions around the world including all states and territories of Australia (but not the federal government) as well as Japanese carmaker Nissan.
“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” said Mary Barra, GM chair and CEO in a statement.
“We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note that GM’s new target is a “shot across the bow” to EV makers like Tesla, which unlike many legacy automakers that wrote down huge losses and saw stock values plummet in early 2020, saw its value balloon by 700%.
In a note on Thursday he said the plan is a sign that GM “will be aggressively going after EVs and is not just talking the talk with this latest news,” according to Marketwatch.
GM’s new target to go all-electric was developed alongside the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and will see GM offer all-electric vehicles across a broad range of price points as well as continue working with the EDF to roll out chargers.
Importantly, GM says it will embark upon a campaign to promote acceptance of electric vehicles among drivers.
“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 EDF president Fred Krupp in a statement.
“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.”
The news comes less than 12 months after GM announced it would pull iconic Australian brand Holden from the local market.
A lack of federal leadership on cleaning up transport emissions underscores just how out of step Australia currently is with the global transition to electric vehicles, said Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari in a note.
“It’s no coincidence that GM decided to pull out of Australia shortly before making this announcement,” Jafari said.
“The rational view for GM to form is that Australia is a low priority nation for its all-electric future.
“Not only are we one of the only countries not to enforce fuel efficiency standards, we are the only nation proposing brand new punitive taxes on electric vehicles instead incentives.”
“America’s largest car manufacturer’s stated aim of ‘putting everyone in an electric vehicle’ will remain out of reach for many Australians without adequate government policies to support this growing industry,” said Richie Merzian, climate & energy director at the Australia Institute in a note.
“This move by GM shows the writing is on the wall for petrol and diesel vehicles. Without corresponding Government policy to keep up with the times, Australians will be left behind.
“Australia is already viewed by car manufacturers as a dumping ground for high polluting car models due to a lack of fuel efficiency standards or incentives for zero-emissions vehicles. The ongoing vehicle policy paralysis will mean this will only get worse.”
GM already has a number of electric vehicles on sale (such as the Chevrolet Bolt) and under development (such as the Hummer EV), and says it will have 30 on offer by 2025, with 40% of models available in the US to be all-electric.
Investing some $US27 billion ($A35 billion) into its transition to electric mobility, GM will continue to work on its Ultion battery technology, and update two factories in Michigan and Tennessee to make electric vehicles, in addition to its new Ohio Ultium facility.’
To reach carbon neutrality, GM says it will source 100% renewable energy to power its factories and offices by 2030 and globally by 2035. Any remaining carbon emissions will be countered with either carbon credits or offsets, the company said.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.