GM seeks to end making gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. pledged Thursday to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new light-duty vehicles by 2035 and to make its global products and operations carbon neutral by 2040.

Where it is not possible to remove emissions in its products and operations in the next 20 years, the automaker said it will compensate by using carbon credits, or a permit that allows GM to emit a certain amount of emissions.

The news puts a very public deadline on GM's goal of reaching a zero-emissions future. The move carries profound implications for GM’s rivals in the global auto industry, for union auto workers and for the states where the automaker produces internal-combustion engines and the many parts that drive them.

GM's policy shift comes as Democrats control Congress and a White House occupied by President Joe Biden is working with climate activists and some industries to shape Team Biden’s climate agenda, to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, to speed electrification of vehicles and to expand the needed charging infrastructure.

GM plans to introduce 30 new electric vehicles by 2025, and spend $27 billion on electric and autonomous technologies to get there — even as it runs many North American assembly plants hard, churning out gas-powered pickups and SUVs to fatten its top and bottom lines. 

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra is leading the company toward an electric future.

"For General Motors, our most significant carbon impact comes from tailpipe emissions of the vehicles that we sell — in our case, it’s 75%," GM CEO Mary Barra wrote in a LinkedIn post. "That is why it is so important that we accelerate toward a future in which every vehicle we sell is a zero-emissions vehicle. 

"But it is also critical that we reduce emissions from our global operations — from the manufacturing facilities we manage around the world and from the energy we use to produce those vehicles."

GM has continually said it will offer zero-emissions vehicles across a range of price points. In addition to using battery electric technology, GM also is building up its hydrogen fuel cell technology and recently formed a partnership with trucking manufacturer Navistar Inc. to build trucks with its hydrogen fuel cells. 

In addition to its commitment of zero emissions by 2035, Barra also noted the following: 

  • GM signed a business ambition pledge of 1.5 degrees Celsius, signaling an intent to meet the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius
  • GM would use 100% renewable energy to power U.S. facilities by 2030 and for global facilities by 2035 — five years ahead of its previous goal
  • GM is working with the Environmental Defense Fund, governments, partners and suppliers around the world to build out charging infrastructure and encourage the use of renewable energy in electric vehicle charging
  • Barra said GM is "collaborating with our suppliers to set ambitious targets to reduce emissions, increase transparency and source more sustainable materials, including establishing a sustainability council to share best practices, learn from one another and create new standards for the industry."

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