My Car Quest

November 27, 2021

General Motors to Phase Out Petroleum-Powered Cars and Trucks by 2035

EDITORIAL: GM announces it will sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035: Not so fast, says Wyss…

by Wallace Wyss –

We’re all supposed to be cheering that General Motors wants to end sales of gas and diesel engine vehicles by 2035 as part of a broader pledge to become carbon neutral by 2040.

GM is playing up to the eco-crowd by promising “an aspiration to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035.”

The goal is to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Never mind the only company making money on electric cars is Tesla.

Other car companies turning round and embracing a pledge to go pure electric include BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Volvo. Some countries are speeding up the deadline ahead of 2035, including Norway by 2025 and the United Kingdom by 2030.

GMC Electric Hummer

GMC Electric Hummer

GM is already re-configuring its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center in Michigan and a factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee, to build only electric vehicles. GM’s ambitious plans are to introduce 30 new global electric vehicles by 2025 and they have said all of its autonomous cars will be on an electric architecture. It’s a big gamble because at this writing electric only cars account for less than 4% of the US market. So GM is going to stop spending money on internal combustion engines and transmissions. But GM also faces the challenge of convincing consumers to leap to an EV from a gasoline powered car.

Although sales are moving upward, Americans purchased a mere 260,000 battery-electric vehicles out of nearly 15 million light vehicles sold, according to MotorIntelligence. The Tesla Model 3 accounted for almost half of the EV sales volume. While GM’s only electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt, logged sales of less than 21,000. I would at first blush say they are going out on a limb. For one thing there is no place to charge all these cars they want to make at night, I live in an apartment where there is no place to charge a car. There are over 200 residents, over 80 cars and no place to plug them in.

And today, right now, in 2021, how many chargers are in the average company parking lot? Five? Ten? When they’ve got 100 or more employees? So basically the auto industry is building cars only for those privileged folks that have homes where they can plug their electric cars in overnight. There will have to be crash programs to subsidize home chargers and community chargers at every apartment house and condo complex.

A real irony is recently a nationwide chain of electric chargers was paid for by VW, who were fined huge amounts for lying about diesel emissions. So their fine was spent on chargers. I don’t have GM’s sales figures in China but this is a situation where GM is damned if they do (spend too much on electric cars in the US) because they are damned if they don’t because China is hell bent on going electric, and already has five automakers building pure electrics. If GM can get in on that boom the Chinese sales will pay for the R & D of electrics that they can then sell in China and the rest of the world.

GM leads the U.S. in auto sales of electrics with 17% of the market. The cars developed for China could be the ones destined for the US once American consumers are more welcoming to electrics. But as for sales of GM electrics beyond China, again GM might be hoping for a world that isn’t ready yet. More than 4 billion people on the planet live where they can’t plug in their car to recharge at night. The rest of the world has to catch up with charger sites.

Cadillac Electric Concept

Cadillac Electric Concept

So that’s GM’s plan. But I warn that politics could derail the plan. Right now the US is still trading with China but one future snafu (such as the coming fight over hypersonic missiles that move at five times the speed of sound). Fights with China over their deployment of these missiles could result in a ban of importing Chinese made cars into the U.S or worse, sales of American automaker’s cars in China.

The idealists talk about science-based climate progress and “equitably shared” economic opportunity but that’s pie-in-the-sky stuff. Since when did “equitably shared” become a goal of American automakers? The goal of every automaker is to dominate wherever they compete, as Tesla is proving with electrics? And it’s way too lofty a goal for a company that, at this point in time, has one, count ’em, one electric vehicle, the Chevy Bolt, in the marketplace.

GM’s plan includes offering an EV in every segment: sedans, crossovers, SUVs and trucks. Ironically their plan might succeed in making genuine market penetration first with bigger vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions. They recently announced a deal with heavy-duty truck manufacturer Navistar International Corp. to supply hydrogen fuel cell units for their green semi-tractor. The hydrogen-powered big rig will be tested by motor carrier J.B. Hunt next year and the big rig is scheduled for commercial production in 2024.

In sum: I don’t like to see all of GM’s eggs put in one basket because it’s all depending on achieving a sizable percentage of the Chinese market, those profits paying for electric car R & D and maybe tooling up. But if a sudden turn in politics kills the Chinese market, they might be building electrics the rest of Southeast Asia can’t use. And European automakers might figure out a way to stop GM electric cars from reaching Europe.

So GM could end up with electric cars they can’t sell in the US because of low demand and can’t sell in Europe or China because of politics. I say keep some gas engines in production, don’t go whole hog. Hogs get butchered…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of 18 automotive histories.
 
 
 
 

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General Motors to Phase Out Petroleum-Powered Cars and Trucks by 2035
Article Name
General Motors to Phase Out Petroleum-Powered Cars and Trucks by 2035
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Other car companies besides GM turning round and embracing a pledge to go pure electric include BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Volvo.
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Comments

  1. Glen Durmisevich says

    I agree with you that it is a big risk for GM and I too am bothered by them not offering anything but electric vehicles. GM was built on offering a car for every purse and purpose which would mean having a variety of products for the consumers. The all eggs in one basket is more like a small manufacturer mentality.

    The other side of the coin though is the fact that electric power trains are simpler and eventually cheaper with volume than an IC Powertrain (as evidence by all the start ups) and therefore more profitable. So imagine in a few years that when a buyer goes into an Chevy or Ford dealer and the only Equinox, Corvette, Fusion or Mustang they want to buy only comes as electric! Do most consumers really care or know what powers their cars these days?

    • Bruce Caron says

      Politics and any popular dogma unfortunately blow like the wind (hot air) and can change direction at any time. (See De Blasio to ban gas hookups in new buildings by 2030, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state Wednesday to ban new gas vehicles within 15 years).

      Couple that with all of the big corporations and goverment racing to virtue signal about any current complaint by anyone.

      The bottom line is where is the power coming from? Recent brown outs in California due to the mandated reliance on wind and solar power should be a warning but is ignored. Politicians will say and promise ANYTHING to stay in power even though they won’t be around when the crap hits the wind turbine.

  2. A close look at Tesla’s financials shows clearly that their car operation in not profitable. Tesla’s big revenue stream are ‘carbon credits’ that they sell to companies that need to offset their high level of emissions. Once these companies improve their performance, then the Tesla ‘gravy train’ will dry up. Tesla will then find itself in big trouble since they have yet to turn a profit on their cars.

    Agree that distribution is a major issue, both in terms of availability and charging times. Mileage anxiety should abate with some of the new technologies in the labs. MSRP needs to come down if this sismic shift in drivetrains is to work. Currently, too much money and time is spent on reducing acceleration times (gas vs electric) from 4.9 seconds to 1.9 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. Spend it on reducing charging times and normalizing connectors for electric cars. It’s ridiculous to expect an EV owner to carry around multiple connectors in case he can’t find a Tesla charging station or some other brand.

    Another pet-peeve for me is self-driving cars…. but I will leave that for another time.

  3. Lots of smart guys offer great comments on this site. Forever I have not been able to justify Tesla’s price only to miss out on a huge run in the stock and now someone has come out with a $1200 target. Yikes!
    More important to me is what do you foresee for future gas prices and availability for our special collector cars?

  4. Douglas Hoffman says

    I 100% agree with Wallace. I thought that GM’s announcement was a bit over the top too. No one is talking about when these batteries are dead how do you dispose of them?

  5. Merkel Weiss says

    I don’t see all those car guys going electric right away. Their love of gasoline-powered cars will endure against the political wind.

  6. Robert Krantz says

    As others have pointed out here….where is all of the electricity going to come from to power these cars? There would have to be a seismic shift immediately to gear up the opening of “electricity stations” vs. gas stations to have the ability to power up all of the electric cars that would come on stream. As charging times are longer than it takes to fill up with gas (at least at this time), larger “stations” on larger plots of land will be needed to house all of the cars that will need to power up. That means that existing gas stations that may need to be retrofitted to pump electricity will be too small. I can see huge lines of electric cars queuing up to get into these stations…this happened not all that long ago during Thanksgiving traffic on I-5 in California with huge lines and long delays for electric car owners. Someone mentions the unknown ecological disaster that awaits…..what happens to all of the spent batteries that need a place to be deposited? How about the rare earth metals needed to make all of the batteries and will those metals run out eventually? The mining operations that take place to dig up all of these metals are an ecological disaster that use child labor in many third world countries. Plus, assuming that these metals are going to be used to make up the huge number of batteries that will be needed, this will lead to another ecological nightmare of the emissions from large equipment and impact to the planet of the strip mines that are used to mine these materials. Also, there will need to be a huge increase in the number of electrical generating plants to make power to charge all of these electric cars that are to come on stream. It takes fossil fuels or natural gas to power these power plants…wind turbines or wind or wave energy won’t cut it. Plus all of the logistical nightmares that Wallace points out of where are all of these cars to be charged when the infrastructure in apartments or condos is not there nor is there any sort of standardization of charging ports or charging stations for the different makes of car. Plus, how do you get all of the populace to buy into owning an electric car?

    All in all, this announcement by GM is foolish. While I can see them trying to make headway into the young generation with their “Green New Deal” announcement, they are creating a situation for themselves that may come back to bite them.

  7. Ronald Will says

    You mentioned that apartment owners would have no place to charge….including those who live in downtown big cities hotels and condos. Also, how about the thousands of college students on campus with no place to charge. And where are all the homeless people going to charge their new Teslas? Most people will also not even be able to afford the expensive 240 volt home charging system and 240 volt plug or wiring, resulting in long, long 110 volt charging times. And how about 2 and 3 car families. Is it first come first serve for the chargers, or do you have to put in more charging stations at home? A neighbor with two Teslas has one 240 charger in the garage and another outside the garage….very expensive. Many older homes do not have power panels that would allow for the addition of 240 circuits. Our power box was on the opposite side of the house from the garage, requiring a very expensive 100 ft. line routing to go to the opposite side of the house for our EV. There’s a lot of issues here that I don’t think GM is addressing. I think they are charging full speed ahead with blinders on.

    And are utility companies’ really ready supply this gigantic increase in power that will be required to service all these EV cars at home?

  8. Wallace alfred Wyss says

    Plus in California , after having been blamed for forest fires that burned hundreds of homes because their high power lines blew down in windstorms spurred by the fires, the power companies now take the pre-emptive step of shutting off the power in whole neighborhoods when there’s high fire danger. That means your electric car won’t get recharged though you might need it if the fire gets close enough to force you to evacuate. Wait a minute, no problem, you switch to the gas engine in your hybrid, right? , Oh, I forgot, the major automakers are going all electric figuring hybrids were only a temporary phase. It’s about then you figure you were screwed by the Greenies…..

    • Bruce Caron says

      Unless of course you buy the very cool and expensive Tesla Powerwall batteries for your home. Here we go again, more toxic batteries to dispose of eventually.

  9. Ronald Will says

    . The US sells about 16 million new cars and trucks per year. There are 250 million private cars and trucks in the US. So even if every one, 100%, of those 16 million vehicles sold were electric, it would still take 15 years to replace all the Internal combustion vehicles. And that is not going to happen. We are only selling about 3% of our current US fleet as electric. The math is simple but the person (and GM) who made these claims about EVs taking over in 10 years did not know what they are talking about. It will take many years to replace the gas fleet with EVs, maybe 50 years. A catch 22 is that as there are more EVs, gas will be more plentiful and even cheaper making gas cars cheaper to run. Gas cars are getting better and better mileage, many 30 to 40 and some 50 mpg, making gas cars very cheap to run. Why would you switch? My Chevy Volt was $35,000. A similar size compact car was $19,000. My trade in value dropped fast as they were not very popular. Gas cars will be with us far longer than the pundits tell us for better or worse.

  10. wallace wyss says

    I think the over reliance on all electric cars gonna show up at the used car lot, Even now hundreds of thousands of Teslas are being recalled to replace something in the screen that wears out after five years or so. As replacement parts for the myriad of electric gizmos in the new electrics become hard to find, used electric cars will lose their value. then you’ll wish you hadn’t sold that air cooled beetle you had rotting in the driveway.

  11. I thought the Chevy Volt was considerably more than $35 K? Seems like the nice EVs are $89-150+ KYikes you can buy a lot of nice gas cars for way less. The expensive Porsche and Audi only have about a 200 mile range. Pathetic!

  12. wallace wyss says

    I have a radio show ( KUCR FM Riverside and in preparing for that I discovered Tesla may soon pass Audi in sales in the US and they aren’t that far away from Porsche. Yet my colleagues on the show are all German car buffs, singing praises of Mercedes and BMW, and I wonder how can they defend firms that haven’t met the challenge of a luxury car with 300 mile range? They are dancing the polka (or whatever songs those oomphah bands play) while Rome burns…

  13. Ronald Will says

    Has anyone noticed that GM is spending a ton of money advertising the Cadillac Lyriq EV that is not available at the dealers and no money at all advertising the Chevy Bolt that it does have for sale at dealers. Apparently GM has given up on the Bolt, just as it has given up on the Volt. By the way, I liked my PHEV Volt, but like my PHEV Honda Clarity even more. It seems a more logical way to go to get 90% EV driving without spending a lot for a giant battery pack. I average about 5,000 miles of EV driving before I have to fill up the 8 gallon gas tank to run the generator.

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