Washington | Reuters — General Motors said on Thursday it was setting a goal to sell all its new cars, SUVS and light pickup trucks with zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, a dramatic shift by the largest U.S. automaker away from gasoline and diesel engines.
GM, which also said it plans to become carbon-neutral by 2040, made the announcement just over a week after U.S. President Joe Biden took office pledging to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and dramatically boost sales of electric vehicles.
GM sold 2.55 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, but only about 20,000 were EVs — Chevy Bolt hatchbacks. It said in November it was investing $27 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles over the next five years, up from $20 billion planned before the coronavirus pandemic (all figures US$).
CEO Mary Barra has aggressively pushed GM to embrace electric vehicles and shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles.
She said in a statement the automaker had worked with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an environmental advocacy group, to “develop a shared vision of an all-electric future and an aspiration to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035.”
Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas said the decision is “based principally on economic grounds… Would GM decide to wind down a business in under 15 years if it truly felt it would spin off cash and provide positive economic value?”
Jonas added that investors should look for most if not all automakers “to follow GM’s precedent.”
In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state plans to ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks starting in 2035. Several states, including Massachusetts, say they plan to follow suit.
In Canada, Quebec’s provincial government in November also announced plans for a 2035 ban on gasoline-powered cars and SUVs. The federal government has previously set a target for 100 per cent of all new light-duty vehicle sales to be zero-emission models by 2040.
“We’re taking actions so that we can eliminate tailpipe emissions by 2035,” Dane Parker, GM’s chief sustainability officer, told a media briefing. “Setting a goal for us 15 years from now is absolutely reachable.”
EDF president Fred Krupp said in a statement: “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.”
David Friedman, a vice-president at Consumer Reports and former Obama adminstration auto regulator, said “strong aspirations are important and inspirational, but firm production plans and strong policies are what move the market and the climate.”
GM also said it will source 100 per cent renewable energy to power its U.S. sites by 2030 and global sites by 2035, five years ahead of a prior goal.
More than half of GM’s capital spending and product development team will be devoted to electric and electric-autonomous vehicle programs, GM said.
Biden on Monday vowed to replace the U.S. government’s fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles with electric models as the new administration shifts its focus toward clean energy.
— David Shepardson reports on the U.S. transportation and auto sectors for Reuters from Washington, D.C.