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General Motors Aims for All Zero Emission Vehicles by 2035

In addition to focusing on electric-powered and hydrogen fuel cell propulsion vehicles, the car manufacturer has goals to be carbon neutral for both its products and plants by 2040.

(TNS) — General Motors "aspires" to have all of its global new light-duty vehicles, including full-size pickups and SUVs, be zero emission by 2035. It also targets 2040 for its global products and plants to be carbon neutral.

GM made the announcements Thursday, stopping short of saying all of its vehicles will be zero emissions, which means either battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell propulsion.

Carbon neutral means that all vehicles and plants will be zero emissions and GM will buy carbon credits to offset those that are not.

"'Aspire' is a great word because it helps us work toward our vision," said Dane Parker, GM's chief sustainability officer. "We're taking action to have our vehicles be zero emissions by 2035. This is going to take the effort of a lot of people and a lot of governments to get there. So we have a vision, we have a plan and we're taking action today to get there."

Parker said GM's global plan for zero-emission vehicles includes heavy-duty pickups by 2040. Put simply. Parker said, “By 2040, 100 percent of our portfolio will be fully electric and that’s the vision we’re setting out.”

Parker said GM also signed the Business Ambition Pledge for 1.5-degree Celsius, which is a call by a global coalition of United Nation agencies, business and industry leaders to protect the environment.

“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” said GM CEO Mary Barra in a statement. “We encourage others to follow suit.”

'Extraordinary Step Forward'

GM will offer zero-emissions vehicles across a range of prices and it is working with all its stakeholders, including suppliers and the Environmental Defense Fund, to build charging infrastructure and promote consumer acceptance.

Parker said this path will not eliminate jobs.

“We plan on using the resources we have and allocating them in a way that supports our EV future and bringing the high-paying jobs we have today into the future,” Parker said.

Also, GM foresees today's gas stations converting to tomorrow's charging stations. Already in other countries, gas stations are being repurposed to public fast-charging points, and "that's a trend that I would see growing," Parker said.

The Environmental Defense Fund calls GM's move an "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 Fred Krupp, Fund president, in a statement.

A Greener World

About 200 countries have signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, which the U.S. rejoined on President Joe Biden’s first day in office. It sets a collective goal to limit global warming to below 2-degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5-degree Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels, to mitigate climate change damage.

To meet that goal, the world must reduce the net impact of carbon emissions from all human activities to zero by 2050, Barra said.

"As one of the world’s largest automakers, General Motors seeks to lead our industry and our world toward those goals," Barra said. "For General Motors, our most significant carbon impact comes from tailpipe emissions of the vehicles that we sell — in our case, it’s 75 percent. That is why it is so important that we accelerate toward a future in which every vehicle we sell is a zero-emissions vehicle."

Barra told Wall Street late last year that GM will offer 30 new all-electric vehicles globally by 2025, that means 40 percent of the company’s U.S. models offered would be EVs.

GM's Investment in Electric

GM is also working to cut emissions from its global manufacturing plants. It is investing $27 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles by 2025, up from the $20 billion GM had planned to invest before the pandemic.

This investment will pay to further develop GM’s Ultium battery technology, which will underpin its new electric vehicles.

Also, it covers updating GM factories such as Factory ZERO in Detroit and Hamtramck where GM is planning to build at least five electric vehicles in the future, the first being the 2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup due out later this year.

Also, GM is retooling its Spring Hill Manufacturing in Tennessee to build electric vehicles from globally sourced parts.

GM is investing in new factories too such as Ultium Cells LLC near its former assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. GM sold the Lordstown plant to electric pickup maker Lordstown Motors, which will launch the Endurance pickup later this year.

Beyond environmentally friendly cars and factories, GM plans for 100 percent of its electric vehicle batteries to be reused as other forms of energy storage. The Ultium system, for example, is designed to be repairable, so “we don’t intend for any of our batteries to be disposable," Parker said.

GM said more than half of its capital spending and product development team will be devoted to electric and electric-autonomous vehicle programs.

While GM said it plans "to offer an EV for every customer, from crossovers and SUVs to trucks and sedans," it will continue to increase fuel efficiency of its traditional internal combustion cars with technology such as Stop/Start, better aerodynamics, smaller, boosted engines, more efficient transmissions and other vehicle improvements including weight reduction and lower rolling resistance tires.

Using Renewable Energy

To address emissions from its own operations, GM said it will source 100 percent renewable energy to power its U.S. sites by 2030 and global sites by 2035, which represents a five-year acceleration of the company’s previously announced global goal.

To account for the expected remaining carbon emissions, GM expects to invest in carbon credits or offsets, it said.

GM said it will assess these "offset solutions" in the coming years, adding that "offsets must be used sparingly."

GM has worked with some of its largest suppliers to create a sustainability council to share best practices. GM is also collaborating with suppliers to set targets for the supply chain to reduce emissions and use more sustainable materials.

It is also important that electricity generated to charge EVs comes from renewable sources like wind and solar, so GM has worked with utilities and developers to support investments in renewable energy near GM facilities via power purchase agreements and green tariffs.

Finally, GM partnered with EVgo last year to add more than 2,700 new fast chargers by the end of 2025, to help accelerate consumer electric vehicle adoption. The new fast chargers will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy. 

(c)2021 the Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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