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Can GM Increase Electric Vehicle Production 2800 Percent in Four Years?

The Hill

General Motors (GM) has committed
 to spending $35 billion to bring 30 new fully electric vehicles (EVs) to its market worldwide by the end of 2025 — just four years from now.

And the company says that two-thirds of those models will be available in the United States. About 40 percent of GM’s U.S. production will consist of battery-powered vehicles, including crossovers, SUVs and trucks.

Set aside for a moment whether or not that’s a good goal; it may well be. The real issue is whether it’s an achievable goal. Just look at the manufacturing and sales challenge.

According to Auto Industry Portal Marklines, GM sold 1,766,219 passenger cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs in the United States from January through September of this year. Since it’s anyone’s guess what sales will be in 2025 (given the pandemic uncertainty, the potential for a recession or an economic boom, etc.), we’ll use the January-September 2021 numbers.

Forty percent of roughly 1.76 million new vehicles sold would be about 706,000 — the number of EVs GM would need to produce to hit its 2025 U.S. target for the same time period.

Doable? The only real guide we have is GM’s current EV track record, and it’s not encouraging.

GM’s only EV for sale is the Chevy Bolt, which appeared in the U.S. market in 2017. It has won several awards, such as Motor Trend’s 2017 Car of the Year. And yet GM has sold only 24,803 Bolts this year through September, according to Inside EVs, and that is “already more than any previous year.”

But that’s only about 3.5 percent of all U.S. GM vehicle sales for January through September. For GM to meet its 40 percent goal, it will have to up its current EV production by 2800 percent.

And then there’s this: GM has had to recall all of its Bolts due to a battery problem. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last August, “GM is expanding the current Chevrolet Bolt recall to include model year 2017-2022 Chevrolet Bolt vehicles…due to the risk of the high-voltage battery pack catching fire.”

The NHTSA goes on to say, “GM is asking all Chevrolet Bolt owners to park their vehicles outside and away from structures, and to not charge their vehicles overnight.” Yikes!

To be fair, GM wants to produce new, safer and more consumer-appealing EVs than its troubled, lackluster Bolt. For example, GM’s proposed Cadillac EV, the Lyriq, is beautiful, though also very expensive.

The Lyriq was supposed to be released in 2021, but Car and Driver reports that release has been pushed back to 2022 — which only reinforces my main argument. 

Other car manufacturers are predicting that more than half of their U.S. offerings will be EVs by 2030 — which gives them at least five additional years.  

Except perhaps Nissan. It came out with its all-electric Leaf in 2010, and it was pretty much a total flop. Nissan says it has learned not to be too bold in its EV forecasts. That’s wise.

A lot of things will have to fall into place for car makers to hit their 2030 goals. There will need to be thousands of easily accessible EV charging stations around the country. Batteries will have to get better, smaller, less expensive and safer. Of course, several companies are trying to do just that.

Car makers will also have to design better looking EVs at prices middle-income families can afford.

Tesla has proven that consumers will spend their money on EVs. But the other car manufacturers have a long way to go to catch up to Tesla, and not much time.

Car makers say they can do it, but the government will have to shell out billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies to them and tax credits for EV buyers.

President Biden is more than willing to hand over the cash. And that may be the real reason why many car manufacturers are so eager to bet it all on EVs.