General Motors sold about 10 million cars last year, nearly all of them running on gasoline or diesel fuel. But Monday the company announced it would begin a transition to an “all-electric future” with cars powered by batteries and fuel cells. From the Washington Post:
The acceleration to an all-electric future will begin almost immediately, with GM releasing two new electric models next year and an additional 18 by 2023.
At a media event at GM’s technical campus in Warren, Mich., on Monday, Mark Reuss, the company’s chief of global product development, said the transition will take time, but the course has been set.
“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” Reuss said. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles.”
But GM isn’t putting all of its eggs in one basket. The company is investing in hydrogen-powered fuel cell technology as part of its all-electric future. From Forbes:
GM has also been busy developing next-generation hydrogen fuel cell stacks in partnership with Honda, and said it will have its first commercially available fuel cell vehicle in 2020. A hydrogen fuel cell-powered Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 is currently being evaluated by the U.S. military and has received rave reviews for its stealth operation and instant acceleration, GM executives said.
The company also introduced SURUS — the Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure — a fuel cell-powered, four-wheel steer concept vehicle on a heavy-duty truck frame that’s driven by two electric motors. Capable and flexible, it could be used as an emissions-free delivery truck, power generator or self-driving ambulance, even in remote parts of the world.
Fuel cells for retail customers will be available within five years, the company said.
Meanwhile, the new electric vehicles coming next year are based on the platform of the Bolt, an electric car that went on sale about a year ago. The bolt has been judged a critical success, winning Motor Trend’s 2017 car of the year in November and yet, sales have been modest. The Street suggests one possible reason: cheap gas prices.
…the inventory of unsold Bolts in the U.S. has swollen to an unacceptable level. GM, in response, has added three weeks to its normal summer shutdown at the assembly plant in Orion Township, Mich., where the Bolt and Sonic subcompact are built.
Internal combustion engines look pretty economical compared to batteries, especially here in southeast Michigan, where regular unleaded last weekend was selling for $2.26 a gallon. A sudden spike in fossil fuel prices could spark a rush to Bolt and other EVs like Nissan Motor Corp.’s (NSANY) Leaf and Tesla Inc.’s (TSLA – Get Report) Model 3, which is the latest to reach the mass market.
Trucks and sport utility vehicles are still a huge part of the overall market. Until we see an electric version of the kinds of vehicles Americans want to drive, I don’t think EV’s are going to take over the market. The Bolt may be a very good small car but if you want a small car you can get a reliable, gas-powered Honda Civic (or Toyota or Hyundai) for thousands less.
Of course, 2023 is still quite a few years off. An increase in the number of available electric cars should drive prices down and the addition of more charging stations will ease concerns about limited charging options. Finally, an unexpected bump in gas prices could lead to a recalculation among consumers of the total cost of owning a gas-powered car. But for now, the all-electric future still has some ground to cover to really compete with the gasoline present.
Update: Here video of the Chevy Colorado ZH2, the fuel cell vehicle mentioned above: