General Motors commits $25 million to promote equity in EV transition

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. is creating a $25 million Climate Equity Fund that will focus on closing equity gaps, or disparities, as the auto industry transitions to electric and emissions-free vehicles, CEO Mary Barra announced Tuesday.

Barra discussed the initiative during the Aspen Ideas Festival, saying it responds to "the need for equity considerations as the industry accelerates toward an all-electric future."

"Climate change does not impact every community equally," she said. "As we move to an all-electric, zero-emissions future, it is on us to lead positive change and implement inclusive solutions that bring everyone along, especially our employees and communities."

GM is one of the automakers leading the electric-vehicle transition. The company recently announced it would increase spending on both electric and autonomous vehicles to $35 billion through 2025, up from a previous $27 billion estimate given in November 2020.

The Detroit automaker, though, is transitioning with pricey EV offerings from the $112,595 GMC Hummer EV truck to the $59,990 Cadillac Lyriq

The automaker did lower the cost this year on its Chevrolet Bolt by $5,000 to a starting price of $31,995. The Bolt EUV, a larger version of the Bolt EV, starts at $33,995, which is $3,000 below the previous Bolt price. When it revealed the new Bolts, GM said it would also cover the cost for eligible purchasers to install home charging stations.

"We want to make sure that we have a complete portfolio that allows everyone to have access to a product that’s going to meet their respective needs," said Gerald Johnson, executive vice president of global manufacturing, on a call with media Tuesday. "That said, we are obviously expecting and supportive of an EV tax credit opportunity."

GM, like Tesla, has already used up all of the $7,500 federal tax incentives offered to consumers when they buy EVs. Lawmakers are considering an increase in tax incentives to help spur EV adoption.

A "key to electric vehicles is battery costs," Barra said during the Aspen conference. "We're making sure that we're also investing in focusing on how do we get the energy density up and the battery cost down, so we can have a variety solutions that serve everyone."

In partnership with LG Energy Solution, GM is building four battery cell plants in the U.S. to help with this. The first one in northeast Ohio will go online next year.

The company says its focus on "equitable climate action" is rooted in four areas: 

• "The Future of Work" — focusing on prioritization of the current salaried and union-represented workforce. GM noted it recently signaled its support for the UAW to represent workers at its battery cell plants. GM's "goal is to make sure that as we make this transition, we bring everyone along," Barra said. "And that's why we're working so hard to make sure we delight and provide customers a better experience because that gives us the volume to create the jobs."

• "EV Access" — providing a selection of EVs across a range of price points. 

• "Infrastructure Equity" — offering charging solutions to meet customers where they are

• "Climate Equity" — funding organizations that are closing the climate disparities at the community level. 

GM is accepting proposals for funding through the initiative and says it will "prioritize grassroots organizations." 

"We want ideas to come from everywhere that aligns (with) this future we’re outlining and align in the space of the overlap of inclusion and an all-EV future," Johnson said. "That can be anything from clean-energy job skills to community solar projects or programs that increase awareness and access to electrification or electrification infrastructure.”

Twitter: @bykaleahall