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GM’s Barra Says EV Switch Will Take Decades

GM sets its own pace for an all-electric future
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Don’t expect to see piston-powered cars to disappear from American new-car showrooms anytime soon.

Yes, it will happen. But a complete changeover isn’t likely until sometime in the 2040s, General Motors CEO Mary Barra tells Bloomberg Television.

   GM’s Chevrolet Bolt electric sedan (Images: GM)

Cautious Rollout

GM’s own timetable reflects the company’s caution about getting too far ahead of the curve of public acceptance for all-electric vehicles. On the global stage, GM is likely to be more aggressive in EV-friendly China than in the U.S., where conventional pickup trucks reign supreme.

In the American market, the company currently offers just one all-electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt. At least 20 more all-electric or plug-in hybrid models will follow worldwide by about 2023.

GM has said that it hopes to reach a global EV sales rate of 1 million units per year by about 2025.

New Platform, New Battery

Most of GM’s upcoming electrics will ride on the company’s new BEV3 platform, which can accommodate a wide range of body styles and powertrain layouts.

Many of the new models will be powered by the extended-performance Ultium modular battery system GM is co-developing with LG Chem. The two companies plan to open a $2.3 billion battery factory near Lordstown, Ohio, by the end of 2022. The launch date gives you a good indication of when GM expects its EV sales will surge in the U.S.

GM Cruise Automation’s Cruise driverless shuttle

A big share of the carmaker’s EV fleet will come out of the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant GM is converting for electric vehicles only. The facility’s $2.2 billion overhaul will led to production next year of the all- electric GMC Hummer pickup truck and the Origin, a driverless shuttle for GM’s Cruise Automation affiliate.

Other EVs due in 2021 and beyond include the Bolt EUV crossover, Cadillac Lyriq small crossover, Celestiq luxury sedan, and a pair of midsize crossovers for Buick and Chevrolet.

Different Strokes

GM’s EV timetable for the U.S. is notably more leisurely than, say, Volkswagen’s gung-ho plans to electrify its fleet in Europe.

But don’t think for a minute that end goal for each company is different. When it comes to EVs, pacing among carmakers is driven by regional regulations and market dynamics. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

As Barra put it earlier this year, “We want to put everyone in an EV.” Eventually.

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