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GM commits to 100-percent renewable energy by 2050

Several automakers have made efforts to use renewable energy at their factories and offices in order to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the cars they produce. But General Motors is taking things a step further.

GM says it will generate or source all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. The new goal builds on a previous commitment by the carmaker to use 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. With its plan for 100 percent renewable energy, GM is joining 69 companies in the RE100 pledge, which is meant to spur demand for large-scale renewable energy generation.

Achieving 100 percent renewable-energy use will take some doing. Last year, GM required 9 terawatts of electricity to power its factories, offices, research centers, and warehouses. The company currently has 350 individual facilities, spread across 59 countries. In addition to the sheer amount of power needed, the availability of renewable energy will likely vary from country to country. GM plans to create its own energy sources when needed, as well as improve the efficiency of its facilities to lower energy demand.

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GM has already made some progress in this area. It currently has 22 facilities with solar arrays, three sites that use landfill gas, and four that will soon get wind power. It also uses old Chevrolet Volt battery packs for energy storage at the data center for its Milford Proving Ground in Michigan. By storing electricity for later use, energy storage makes renewable energy a more practical source of power. GM says it already saves $5 million a year from using renewable energy.

In addition, GM is in the process of adding 30 megawatts of solar arrays at two facilities in China. The Jingqiao Cadillac factory will get 10 megawatts of rooftop solar panels, while a vehicle distribution center parking lot in Wuhan will soon be blanketed with 20 megawatts of solar carports.

Reducing emissions from manufacturing is an important part of making cars greener. As cars become more efficient, these emissions will make up a larger portion of the automotive carbon footprint. When it comes to environmental impact, an electric car is good, but an electric car built at a factory powered by wind turbines is even better.