Big U.S. automaker says it will invest heavily in electric vehicles and be carbon neutral by 2040
General Motors has pledged to stop making gasoline-powered passenger cars, vans and sport utility vehicles by 2035, marking a historic turning point for the iconic American carmaker and promising a future of new electric vehicles for American motorists.
GM chief executive Mary Barra, who antagonized many climate experts by embracing President Donald Trump’s relaxation of fuel efficiency targets, said Thursday the company now wants to lead the way to a greener future.
“As one of the world’s largest automakers, we hope to set an example of responsible leadership in a world that is faced with climate change,” Barra said on LinkedIn.
GM has said it would invest $27 billion in electric vehicles and associated products between 2020 and 2025, outstripping its spending on conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. That figure includes refurbishing factories and investing in battery production in conjunction with LG Chem, a South Korean battery maker.
As part of its plan, GM — maker of Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Corvettes, among others — will manufacture about 30 types of electric vehicles. By late 2025, about 40 percent of the company’s U.S. models will be battery-powered electric vehicles, it said. And it pledged to make its factories and other facilities carbon neutral by 2040.
One of the Big Three automakers that dominated the North American car market for decades, GM has rolled out millions of pollution-spewing cars and trucks. Transportation accounts for about 28 percent of total U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, making it the largest contributor of the pollution that is driving climate change. GM now faces the task of reorienting and revamping supply chains, assembly lines and its labor force to produce a new kind of product that few Americans have experienced.
“This is a very significant pivot … especially for such an iconic American institution,” said Barry Rabe, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.
For a century, GM has been a giant of American carmaking and of the Michigan economy. In Rabe’s corner of southeastern Michigan, where tens of thousands of people are employed by the auto industry, “the central part of life has been the performance of the internal-combustion engine.”
“This is more than just a quick flip of the dial,” he said. “It’s a very wrenching transition.”
It will also be expensive, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research. Converting an assembly plant to produce electric cars is a billion dollar or more investment, she said. And pledging to complete that transition by 2035 is “an aggressive target,” she said.
The electric-vehicle industry has grown exponentially in the past decade but still represents less than 2 percent of automobiles sold in the United States. Global electric-vehicle sales grew in 2020 even while the rest of the car market suffered from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. The International Energy Agency projects that the global number of battery-powered and hybrid vehicles could increase from just over 5 million to nearly 140 million by 2030.