General Motors unveils zero-carbon plans based on electric vehicles

General Motors (GM) has announced plans to become carbon-neutral by 2040 and eliminate exhaust emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035.

The US automotive giant said its focus will be offering zero-emissions vehicles across a range of price points as well as building out the necessary charging infrastructure.

The surprise announcement comes just over a week after President Joe Biden has taken office.

On his first day he signed a raft of executive orders designed to undo many of the decisions made under the Trump administration including one to ensure the revision of vehicle fuel standards.

“General Motors is joining governments and companies around the globe working to establish a safer, greener and better world,” said Mary Barra, GM chairman and CEO.

“We encourage others to follow suit and make a significant impact on our industry and on the economy as a whole.”

Its plans to transform its new cars, SUVs and light pick-up trucks into zero-emission vehicles are predominantly based on electric technology, although it does not rule out “other zero-emissions vehicle technology”.

GM will offer 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade and 40 per cent of the company’s US models offered will be battery-electric vehicles by the end of 2025.

It is now expecting to invest $27bn (£20bn) in electric and autonomous vehicles in the next five years – up from the $20bn planned before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Part of this investment includes the continued development of its Ultium battery technology, modular batteries unveiled last year with fast-charging capabilities and high capacities.

The move is also a long-term plan designed to capitalise on booming electric vehicle sales. While overall car sales slumped by a fifth during the coronavirus pandemic, electric sales rose by 43 per cent.

GM said it worked with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an environmental advocacy group, to cement its plans.

“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 EDF president Fred Krupp.

“EDF and GM have had some important differences in the past, but this is a new day in America — one where serious collaboration to achieve transportation electrification, science-based climate progress and equitably shared economic opportunity can move our nation forward.”

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?”

He added that other automakers would probably follow GM’s precedent.

Earlier this month, GM unveiled a flying version of its Cadillac that is autonomous and can take off and land vertically.

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