Posted on February 2, 2021 by Samuel I. Gutter
On January 29, General Motors stunned the vehicle world by announcing that by 2035, its goal is to phase out all vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, selling only zero-emission cars and trucks. Given the long lead time to develop new vehicles and bring them to market, that is a stunningly short timeframe.
Why would GM make this bold move? Is it to stay a step ahead of California and federal regulators who, in the Biden administration, will continue to push emission reductions? Perhaps in part, but the core reason is simple: competition. Governments around the globe are legislating future bans on fossil fuel cars, most notably China, which has mandated that most vehicles be powered by electricity in 15 years. And China plans to make many of those vehicles itself. At least six Chinese manufacturers are introducing EVs in Europe, with eyes on the U.S. German manufacturers like Porsche are selling electric vehicles, and Toyota and other Asian-based manufacturers have cars in development. Here at home, Ford is pushing its new all-electric Mustang. In simple terms, GM doesn’t want to miss out.
That’s not the only force driving the electrification of the fleet. Consumer demand is leading to more sales. To disclose, when my family gathers it looks like a Tesla showroom. My wife was an early adopter, still driving her 2015 Model S. One daughter owns a Model X and the other drives a Model 3. As we and other owners will tell you, electric vehicles are a hoot to drive: they’re absurdly fast off the line or accelerating onto the highway, and they’re quiet and loaded with technology. Ranges of close to 500 miles are coming to the market, and fewer moving parts (including no transmissions) means less maintenance.
The Biden administration is leaning into the EV market, as well. Among other initiatives, President Biden has ordered that all vehicles purchased for the large federal fleet will soon be U.S.-made electric vehicles.
Other impediments are falling. The argument that electric vehicles just shift pollution to coal-fired power plants wanes as renewable energy generation expands. And while Tesla has its own network of proprietary charging stations, companies like Electrify America – funded by the VW defeat device settlement – are launching thousands of universal chargers nationwide.
Is the coming EV boom bad for Tesla? Perhaps, but recall that in 2014 Tesla took the extraordinary step of opening its patents to other manufacturers. Elon Musk might be one weird dude, but his vision of a world-wide fleet of commercially viable cars and trucks is becoming real within his lifetime.