Plans Join Worldwide
Movement to Zero Emissions
[Ed. note: Clean Fleet Report just published an opinion
piece on this subject. You can find it here.]
General Motors announced a suite of environmental
commitments Thursday, including a pledge to eliminate tailpipe emissions from
its light-duty vehicles by 2035, be carbon neutral in all global products and
operations by 2050 and sign the Business Ambition Pledge to 1.5°C.
The change of administrations in Washington, D.C., appears
to have accelerated the EV moves that GM Chairman and CEO Marry Barra has been
touting for the past
several years. They now join several other major automakers with strong
promises of both zero emission vehicles and a less carbon-impactful operation.
“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the
globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” said Barra. In a
LinkedIn post. She added that GM’s carbon impact comes primarily from tailpipe
emissions of the vehicles it makes, so accelerating the move to zero emission
vehicles is critical. She also said GM would work with the Environmental
Defense Fundto develop a
“shared vision” of that all-electric future.
The company has moved forward by five years its goal of
having all its facility using 100 percent renewable energy. U.S. facilities aim
to now hit that target in 2030 and global facilities are targeting 2035. GM
also will work with its suppliers to initiate sustainable practices in the
supply chain to reduce environmental impact through the entire production cycle
of future EVs.
The move to carbon neutrality will include a “preference”
for the removal of emissions rather than using carbon credits or carbon
capture. She also said “it is critical we improve the fuel efficiency of the
gas- and diesel-powered vehicles many people still rely on” to bridge the gap
to EVs. The company also is “working to improve access to renewable-energy
charging” and promises a full range of EVs, led by its GMC
Hummer EV pickup and Cadillac
Lyriq crossover, both due in 2021-2022..
This was the same company that four years ago joined the
Trump administration in challenging the state of California’s move to increase
fuel economy standards for internal combustion engine vehicles and its move to
mandate that all new vehicles sales be EVs in 2035. It’s a big attitude shift for
a company that sold less than 21,000 Chevrolet
Bolt EVs out a total of more than 2.5 million vehicles sold in 2020.
Ford & Others’ Steady
In contrast to GM’s mixed messages (opposing California
initiatives while continuing to promote its EV ambitions), its cross-town rival
Ford has been steadfast on a similarly aggressive, if less dramatic, path to
electrification. Ford has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050. It also—along
with Volkswagen, BMW, Honda and Volvo—supported California’s fuel efficiency
fight against the former administration. The company has a heavily promoted
hybrid version of its best-selling F-150 pickup, even as it continues its
lightweighting strategy to improve fuel economy. In addition, Ford has a
variety of innovative materials initiatives to increase sustainability. The
company is introducing its first serious EV—the Mustang
Mach-E—this year and plans to follow up with commercial EVs and personal
use plug-in hybrid electrics.
Volkswagen, a global company similar in size to General
Motors, has been promoting its EV pathway as a message of corporate commitment
(or maybe redemption following the diesel emissions cheating scandal). It has
mass-market EVs on sale in Europe and China and introduces the ID.4 crossover
in the U.S. this year. The company has lofty plans with dozens of EVs expected
this decade from its various divisions—Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Bentley,
Bugatti as well as its commercial vehicles. Volkswagen had promised to launch 70 new
electric models worldwide by 2028 and hopes have annual sales in the
15-22 million range by that year.
Nissan, which led the U.S. market with its all-electric Leaf
in 2010, will introduce its second EV this year—the
Ariya crossover. It has also pledge to be carbon neutral by 2050.
Volvo committed early to electrify all of its passenger
vehicles, though it became clear quickly that the company’s pledge covered
technology ranging from mild hybrids through fully electric vehicles.
Hyundai Group talks about 44 “eco-friendly” vehicles being on the market by 2025. Similarly, Toyota is broadly focused on corporate CO2 reduction, including vehicle electrification and an assessment of the entire life cycle of a vehicle to reinforce sustainability and fewer emissions.
And Then There’s Tesla
Of course, Tesla
produces only electric vehicles so it falls outside this transition discussion,
but it’s worth noting that the company delivered almost 500.000 vehicles
worldwide (about half that in the U.S.) in 2020 and stands as the clear leader
in EV production and sales. With a sky-high stock valuation and easy access to
capital, it should be able to keep pushing on its goals of ever-increasing
Other companies have also announced varying tallies of EVs
planned for the future as well as broader corporate commitments to carbon
neutrality. Given the new regime in Washington, D.C., and continuing regulatory
stringencies in the E.U. and China, auto companies are clearly responding to
market drivers, even though EV sales continue to be slight in the U.S.
In summary, GM has vocally tried to jump to the head of
environmentally concerned and committed auto companies. The announcement—all
the OEM announcements—is great. Now, we’ll wait to see and drive the new EVs
and FCEVs that will signal the fulfilment of the promises. When the cars start
showing up and finding a market we’ll be able to take a true measure of what
these commitments mean.
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Flash Drive: Volkswagen
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