Is GM Plugged in to Reality?
General Motors shocked the world with their big announcement in late January 2021, stating they will have zero tailpipe emissions from their light-duty vehicles by 2035.
“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," said Environmental Defense Fund 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.”
We have highlighted before General Motors' ambitious plans to electrify their fleet, but this announcement gives us the clearest picture yet of the size and scope of their electrified vision.
Before we dig into the details of what, lets talk why. The auto industry is in multiple transitions right now. From cars to crossovers and from gasoline power to electric power. The crossover craze is thanks to American's desire for higher ride-height, more interior storage options, and the perception of off-road capability.
The shift to electrify is multifaceted as well, but is now most directly tied to the largest market in America for new car sales, California, declaring that 2035 will be the end to the traditional car in their state. California's decision to cease the sale of internal combustion engine powered vehicles by 2035 has put pressure on auto makers to readjust their plans and timeframes for EVs.
We have already started seeing some potential winners from traditional auto makers such as the Ford Mustang Mach E, the upcoming GMC Hummer EV, Cadillac Lyriq crossover, and Nissan Ariya crossover. But with this new directive in California, GM is pledging 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade and 40 percent of the company’s U.S. models offered will be battery electric vehicles by the end of 2025. GM is investing $27 billion in electric and autonomous vehicles in the next five years. And this is a full-scale effort from the automaker, completely shifting the direction of the company and the products we consumers can expect in the showrooms.
Many enthusiasts wonder if this full-scale approach is the way to go. In fact, Matt & I discuss this very issue in our most recent episode of our podcast. Garage Talk Podcast Episode 50: Is GM Really Plugged In? Matt makes the point that, for the general consumer, General Motors has not really made an exciting car in years. With Tesla having the market currently cornered on cool, fun, EVs does the future of "the Largest U.S. Automaker" have anything fun or exciting up their sleeves?
Yes, and maybe... We know that one of the first all-electric vehicles from GM will be the aforementioned Hummer EV. The $112,000 Edition 1 comes equipped with a feature engineers have dubbed Watts to Freedom, or WTF if you prefer, in which this large, crew cab truck rockets from 0-60 mph in approximately 3 seconds. That certainly sounds exciting for those able to pay, and who already have their orders confirmed since the Edition 1 sold out in mere hours after online ordering was opened. This shows that there are some within the halls of the Renaissance Towers that understand that electric can be fun too! But what about the rest of us? Will we see a Tesla Model Y Performance competitor? Time will tell on that one. All we have as of this moment about the expanded EV models from GM's core 4 brands is what can be discerned from this teaser image:
GM's Vice President of Global Design, Michael Simcoe stands in front of silhouetted concepts of the first wave of EVs, two of which we've already mentioned: the Cadillac Lyriq SUV and the GMC Hummer EV. However, the two SUVs on the left are two new Buick EVs on the way. To the right are an electric Chevrolet truck, Cadillac Celestiq and a mysterious EV. GM didn't talk about the truck or mystery EV at all, but they're coming soon.
So GM has the products planned, but what about real-world application? What about the whole charging scenario? How will we live with these EVs after they have made it from the showroom to our garage? General Motors is partnering with EVgo to help power their future.
General Motors and EVgo plan to triple the size of the nation’s largest public fast charging network by adding more than 2,700 new fast chargers over the next five years, a move set to help accelerate widespread electric vehicle adoption. If that number sounds low to you, it does to us too. With a estimated count of 168,000 gas stations in the US, according to fueleconomy.gov, we still have a long way to go before EVs are as practical as gas-powered vehicles.
“We are moving quickly to bring new EVs to market that customers will love,” said Mary Barra, GM Chairman and CEO. “We know how important the charging ecosystem is for drivers, one that includes access to convenient and reliable public fast charging. Our relationship with EVgo will bolster the public fast charging network available to EV customers ahead of increased market demand and reinforce our commitment to an all-electric, zero-emissions future.”
Customers will have access to some of the fastest charging capabilities at the places they regularly frequent, like grocery stores, retail outlets, entertainment centers and other high-traffic locations. With fast charging available where people typically spend 15-30 minutes, customers can charge their vehicles in the time it takes to run their errands. This approach builds on the success of EVgo’s existing portfolio of more than 800 station locations across the United States, the most of any U.S. public fast charging network.
The new EVgo fast charging stations will be available to customers starting early 2021. Stations will be located in highly visible areas and most will be able to charge at least four vehicles simultaneously. Additionally, stations will feature new charging technology with 100-350-kilowatt capabilities to meet the needs of an increasingly powerful set of EVs coming to market.
Tesla is the current leader and Gold Standard in nationwide EV charging infrastructure but even their Supercharger network has its limitations. From lack of rural locations, to crowded locations, and longer-than-refueling charging times, it is still not an acceptable alternative to gas-powered cars for most consumers.
Some EV doubters also wonder exactly how well EVs would hold up for road trips. Well, our friend over at Engineering Explained has you covered.
Long story short, CAN it drive the distance without any major issue: yes. Is it convenient? Well, as long as you don't mind 8 hours of charging over 2,000 miles.
This brings us to the question, is it sane for an entire state to switch to all EV sales of new vehicles so soon with the infrastructure to power these cars still limited?
Better yet, is it sane for an entire manufacturer with over a generation of expertise in fossil-fuel powered vehicles to completely abandon the practice in the same timeframe?
Time will tell. We will keep you updated on the twists and turns of the industry and the plans of the major manufacturers right here at Garage Talk.