General Motors: Electrification Will Take ‘Years and Decades’
In a way, we feel kind of sorry for the industry. Environmental regulations forced the electrification issue to a point where most players had to at least indicate they had a serious interest in the technology. But only Tesla seems to have made any legitimate headway with customers, creating a strong base thanks to top-tier branding and simply being the first team to deliver an enviable electric car.
“We believe the transition will happen over time,” General Motors CEO Mary Barra told David Rubenstein in an interview on Bloomberg Television. While she still has faith in an all-electric future and noted that GM has a new battery platform coming out soon, Barra said the company needs to “provide options for the entire market place.”
She then went on to say how excited she was about the transition to electric vehicles, which no longer appears to be taking place within her lifetime. When asked if GM will swap to producing EVs exclusively in 10 to 20 years, Barra suggested it would likely take longer than that.
“I think it’ll happen over a period of years and decades. When you look at the transition that needs to occur, there’s about 250 million U.S. cars in the car park. And so, transitioning all of them is going to take some time. You think about different use cases, also affordability. That’s why we’re working to hard to ensure we’re in a leadership position with battery technology — so EVs are affordable for everyone.”
Surely, that’s also why GM is building the Hummer EV — a vehicle that spits in the face of efficiency and affordability while still being entirely electric. Barra mentioned the upcoming model briefly in the interview, glossing over its status as an all-electric plaything for people who want to drive a miniature monster truck while still feeling like they’re saving the environment. She also didn’t harp on its delayed arrival. That doesn’t mean it won’t be great when it does debut; it just doesn’t seem to represent the corporate ideals GM would like to convey to the public.
In addition to funding its EV program, GM also is spending about $1 billion a year to fund Cruise LLC, the self-driving car unit the Detroit-based carmaker majority owns. A return on that investment will bear fruit before long, Barra said. Although Cruise canceled plans to launch a ride-hailing service last year and has not set a new date, it is developing a self-driving vehicle that will be dedicated to a robotaxi service.
“I definitely think it will happen within next five years,” she said of of fully driverless cars being deployed. “Our Cruise team is continuing to develop technology so it’s safer than human driver. I think you’ll see it clearly within five years.”
Cruise’s first autonomous vehicle was supposed to be ready for GM’s uses by 2019, sans steering wheel and pedals. Unfortunately, development woes that were hardly exclusive to America’s largest automaker made that impossible. Bloomberg also failed to mention the manufacturer cut autonomous development staffers by roughly 8 percent this year.