Environmental About Face – General Motors Ditching Internal Combustion Engines by 2035. Carbon Neutral by 2040?

Ken Zino of AutoInformed.com on GM Converting to all EVs and becoming Carbon Neutral

The Cadillac Lyric EV was just the latest step of many in remaking GM into a force against Global Warming and fossil fuel use.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) says it will have an all-electric future with the elimination of tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035. It is the most sweeping endorsement thus far by an international automotive powerhouse that climate change and global warming need to be addressed as the serious crisis they are. Nissan announced a similar initiative just before GM. (Nissan Establishes Carbon Neutral Goal for 2050) It is also a GM retreat from opposing President Obama era fuel economy regulations that would have resulted in 50 mpg vehicles that the anti-environment Trump Administration eviscerated. (President Obama Unveils 54.5 MPG Fuel Economy Regulation for 2017-25. It will Alter Vehicle Choices and Increase Costs, President Obama to Announce First Fuel Economy Regulations for Heavy Trucks, Buses. $50 Billion in Fuel Savings Claimed, US DOT and EPA Want to Slash Fuel Economy Standards. Trump Administration Proposal Has Many Critics)

More than half of GM’s capital spending and product development team will be devoted to electric and electric-autonomous vehicle programs. And in the coming years, GM plans to offer an EV for every customer, from crossovers and SUVs to trucks and sedans. This neatly coincides with President Biden’s executive orders dealing with climate change and converting federal fleets to EVs. The success of the initiative will depend on the voters, err buyers, who will ultimately decide.

GM  previously announced Cadillac – after a hard lesson from Tesla in 2014 when Cadillac spectacularly failed with a $75,000 version of the Chevy Volt – will be at the forefront of GM’s electrification. It’s ironic that Tesla just announced its first profitable year  – 2020. However, GM’s latest financial results show it is dependent on the sales of conventional trucks and SUVs for profits – GM Q3 2020 earnings were boosted by China and North American Sales of truck and SUVs despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, GM launched an all-new portfolio of full-size Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac sport utility vehicles, and maintained its leading U.S. full-size pickup truck and large SUV market share.  (Cadillac EV Teased in Detroit. First of BEV 3 Platform Variants, Cadillac LYRIC – Taking Back the Luxury EV Lead?)

This GM latest move will force other automakers to increase what thus far have been small, sometimes largely PR motivated, steps to acknowledge electric vehicles and fuel cells are the only foundation for an economy that saves mother earth. The move has broad economic consequences not only in the auto industry and its millions up millions of associated workers, but also in the mining, petroleum, power generation and transmission and battery sectors, among others. ***

GM said the use of GM’s products accounts for 75% of carbon emissions related to the Carbon Neutral by 2040 commitment. GM will offer 30 all-electric models globally by mid-decade and 40% 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 – up from the $20 billion planned before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This investment includes the continued development of GM’s Ultium battery technology, updating facilities such as Factory ZERO in Michigan and Spring Hill Manufacturing in Tennessee to build electric vehicles from globally sourced parts and investing in new sites like Ultium Cells LLC in Ohio as well as manufacturing and so-called STEM jobs.

The company will also continue to increase fuel efficiency of its traditional internal combustion vehicles in accordance with regional fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations. Some of these initiatives include fuel economy improvement technologies, such as Stop/Start, aerodynamic efficiency enhancements, downsized boosted engines, more efficient transmissions and other vehicle improvements, including mass reduction and lower rolling resistance tires.

Renewable Energy

GM will source 100% renewable energy to power its U.S. sites by 2030 and global sites by 2035. This is a five-year acceleration of the company’s previously announced global goal. Today, GM is the 10th largest user (offtaker committed to buying a portion of a maker’s output) of renewable energy in the world. In 2020, the company received a 2020 Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Carbon Offsets and Credits

To account for the expected remaining carbon emissions, GM expects to invest in carbon credits or offsets. The company will assess credit and offset solutions in the coming years “as the most efficient, equitable and inclusive ideas mature.” GM says that offsets must be used sparingly and should reflect a holistic view of mitigating the effects of climate change and helping people thrive around the world.

Supply Chain and Infrastructure

GM’s carbon neutral commitment applies to its global product portfolio and owned operations. The company is implementing plans today to reduce the impact associated with its supply chain while supporting grids and utilities to power electric vehicles with renewable energy. GM notes it has worked with some of its largest suppliers to create a sustainability council to share best practices, learn from each other and create new standards for the industry. In addition to the council’s work, GM is collaborating with suppliers to set ambitious targets for the supply chain to reduce emissions, increase transparency and source more sustainable materials.

While electric vehicles themselves do not emit tailpipe emissions, it is critical of course that they be charged with electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar. GM has worked with utilities and developers to support investments in renewable energy found in and around communities that have GM facilities via power purchase agreements and green tariffs. The company is also working with EVgo to triple the size of the nation’s largest public fast charging network by adding more than 2,700 new fast chargers by the end of 2025, a move set to help accelerate widespread electric vehicle adoption. The new fast chargers will be powered by 100% renewable energy. GM believes that the energy sector is well on its way to a decarbonized grid and that an all-electric future will be supported by renewable infrastructure and technology.

*** Industry EV Announcements

GM Footnotes

 Carbon neutrality is defined as achieved when anthropogenic CO2 emissions are balanced globally by anthropogenic CO2 removals over a specified period. [Source IPCC SR15]

Science-based targets provide a clearly defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth. Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Decarbonize:  Companies seek to mitigate their impact on the climate by eliminating the sources of emissions within the boundary of the target. This is often achieved by avoiding activities that generate emissions (e.g. avoiding combustion of fossil fuels) and/or by preventing the release of emissions that continue to be generated (e.g. through the capture and permanent sequestration of emissions before they are released into the atmosphere).

Carbon credits and offsets: In the context of corporate climate neutrality, offsetting refers to the balancing of emissions within the target boundary with an equivalent amount of carbon credits originated from activities that avoid or remove emissions somewhere else. Carbon credits are often issued from two types of project activities:

  1. Carbon removal projects: Activities that remove and sequester atmospheric carbon as a result of a specific intervention (e.g. reforestation projects). In this case, a carbon credit is issued for every ton of carbon dioxide effectively removed and sequestered over a predefined period;
  2. Avoided emission projects: Activities that result in a lower emissions scenario compared to a hypothetical business-as-usual scenario as a result of a specific intervention. A carbon credit is issued for every ton of carbon dioxide equivalent effectively avoided, in comparison to the hypothetical business-as-usual scenario, over a certain period. Some project activities can remove and avoid carbon as a result of the same intervention (e.g. REDD+ programs or projects).
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2 Responses to Environmental About Face – General Motors Ditching Internal Combustion Engines by 2035. Carbon Neutral by 2040?

  1. Pingback: GM Needs Range, Battery Cost Cuts to Speed EV Plans | AutoInformed

  2. Pingback: President Biden to Attend GM Factory ZERO Grand Opening | AutoInformed

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