General Motors (GM) has set a goal to sell all its new cars, SUVs and light pickup trucks, with zero exhaust emissions by 2035, a dramatic shift by the largest United States carmaker away from petrol and diesel engines.
GM, which also plans to become carbon neutral by 2040, made the announcement just over a week after President Joe Biden took office, pledging to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and boost sales of electric vehicles (EVs).
GM sold 2.55-million vehicles in the US last year, but only about 20,000 were EVs, the Chevy Bolt hatchback. It said in November it was investing $27bn in electric and autonomous vehicles over the next five years, up from $20bn planned before the coronavirus pandemic.
Its Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra has aggressively pushed GM to embrace EVs and shift away from petrol-powered vehicles.
She said in a statement that GM 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 automotive 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, carmakers “to follow GM’s precedent”.
In September, California governor Gavin Newsom said the state plans to ban the sale of new petrol-powered passenger cars and trucks starting in 2035. Several states, including Massachusetts, say they plan to follow suit.
Newsom called GM’s announcement a “game-changer” but the California Air Resources Board said “if GM is serious about cleaning up the air our children breathe today, it must also drop its defence of the Trump administration’s rollbacks of federal vehicle emissions standards”.
GM and other major carmakers sided with Trump in 2020 in a legal challenge to his rollback of federal vehicle emissions standards up to 2026. However, in November, GM withdrew from a separate legal case in which it had sided with the Trump administration effort to bar California from setting its own vehicle emissions rules.
Last week, Biden directed US agencies to reconsider the Trump emissions rollback and the revocation of California’s emissions authority.