With 20 new models on the way, GM is getting serious about electric cars

General Motors Chevrolet Bolt EV
Cars like the Chevrolet Volt and Bolt EV made General Motors a pioneer in electrification, but Detroit’s biggest automaker hasn’t tried to develop a full lineup of these vehicles. That’s about to change.

GM will launch 20 new all-electric models by 2023, CEO Mary Barra announced yesterday. That includes two new models that will appear in the next 18 months, and will be “based off learnings from the Chevrolet Bolt EV,” according to a GM press release.

The initiative will put GM well ahead of rival Ford when it comes to electric cars. Ford announced its own electrification effort earlier this year, but it focuses primarily on hybrids, with just one all-electric model confirmed for the future. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) continues to largely ignore all-electric cars, with CEO Sergio Marchionne continually harping on how the company loses money on its sole all-electric model, the Fiat 500e.

But overall, announcements of large fleets of new electric cars and hybrids are becoming common in the auto industry.

By the end of the decade, both Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover plan to sell only mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-electric cars. Mercedes-Benz says it will offer a hybrid or all-electric version of virtually everything it makes by 2022. BMW will launch new 12 all-electric models by 2025. The Volkswagen Group wants to offer an all-electric or hybrid version of every model in its sprawling lineup, which spans everything the main VW brand to Bugatti and Lamborghini, by 2030.

The majority of the new GM vehicles will almost certainly be battery-electric cars like the Bolt EV, but GM isn’t ruling out hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Meeting customers’ needs while reducing emissions will require a “two-pronged approach” encompassing both batteries and fuel cells, the company said. GM has been testing fuel-cell vehicles for years, has a partnership with Honda to further their development, and even built a prototype fuel-cell pickup truck for the Army.

A large number of electric cars (and maybe fuel-cell cars) will likely be required to meet stricter emissions standards. Even with the current administration’s focus on reducing regulations, automakers will likely have to prepare for tougher emissions targets in the U.S. Meanwhile, China, the world’s largest car market, plans to institute sales quotas for electric cars and plug-in hybrids in 2019.

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