General Motors announced on Thursday that the company would cease production of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035, becoming one of the world’s first major automakers to transition almost entirely to electric vehicles.
The company has pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2040, and has greatly expanded investment in electric vehicles in recent months. The transition to production of only electric vehicles would mark a seismic shift in the U.S. auto industry, and especially within GM, whose bestselling products include large SUV’s.
The announcement comes as various governments around the world, including Japan and the U.K., have said they will ban gas-fueled cars by 2035, due to fears of global warming. California governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in September 2020 aiming to ban the sale of gas-fueled cars in the state by that year.
Toyota president Akio Toyoda warned against a full transition in December 2020, saying that cars would need electricity generated by coal-fired power plants, driving up greenhouse gas emissions, and that high demand for electricity would crash Japan’s electric grid.
“When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?” Toyoda said at a news conference, adding that the transition would cost millions of jobs.
The switch to electric vehicles would require the installment of new charging infrastructure to allow drivers to plug in their cars. GM executives have indicated that federal and state incentives will be needed to convince consumers to make the switch, including tax credits for electric vehicles already in place in some areas.
“They really help with consumer acceptance and overcoming some of the initial hurdles consumers might have with first cost, as well as things like charging infrastructure,” GM sustainability head Dane Parker told The Wall Street Journal.
The change to electric vehicles will likely threaten the oil and gas industries supplying consumers at the present, and would entail vast changes for GM’s one million employees, who would need to learn new manufacturing skills in order to produce the vehicles.