Last week, G M announced their plans to go carbon neutral by 2040 and offer 40% of the company’s US models as battery electric by the end of 2025.
This is a $27 Billion investment in the next 5 years.
This seems like a big ask! And looking into the announcement GM made, there’s a lot to unpack here, so I spoke to Arthur Harrington- he’s a lawyer practicing environmental and energy law with Godfrey, Kahn in Milwaukee. He also teaches at Marquette Law school.
I mean is it even feasible?!
Harrington says, “They want all their new vehicles to be all electric by I think, 2035. And so on that side, I think clearly, that’s feasible. And the reason I think primarily is some of the cost of the battery technology is becoming more efficient with a longer range and less cost.”
That up-front capital cost has been the biggest obstacle to most consumers adopting EVs.
Harrington goes on to say, “And once that capital up-front cost reduces to become comparable to the internal combustion engine vehicles, then you’re going to have very rapid consumer acceptance.”
That’s really what the bottom line needs, right? They can have all the EVs and designs they want, but until consumers get knocked off the internal combustion kick, they’re not going to find an advantage to switching over to something they’re not familiar with.
And it’s not just a matter of releasing new electric vehicles. We could do that and people would buy them.
“The big challenge is the infrastructure necessary for charging. Not just in the home, but on the roadways. When this starts ramping up, there’s going to be a big demand for charging stations on the roadways. And the real challenge now is can we ramp up with this charging infrastructure quickly enough in Wisconsin and elsewhere to meet what will be rising demand,” explains Harrington.
Think about it, if there’s new electric vehicles everywhere, are they going to add charging stations to gas stations? How long will the charging take? Where will the stations GET the electricity to do the charging?
See? As we pull back the layers of the onion, it gets more and more complicated.
Let’s take another step further with the infrastructure idea, who’s going to put that infrastructure in and who’s going to own it? Oil companies are very different from utility companies.
“In Wisconsin, there is a big question about if somebody is going to put charging stations in, and make those available to the public. Is that a regulated public utility,” asks Harrington.
And the question goes even deeper when you start to look at the demand on the grid. And with the big Amazons, UPSes and Municipal busses of the world, will there be restrictions on WHEN the major charging can take place?
“There can be megawatts of demand on the utility infrastructure. So there’s going to be a lot of issues about not only the need for infrastructure, but when will charging occur and what will be the cost,” asks Harrington.
It’s a pretty interesting development, when you look at it.
Harrington explains, “What you are seeing now is dramatic change in technology in two separate industries that are going to converge in the form of EVs and electric infrastructure which is going to be game changes in the technology.”
GM says they will continue to increase fuel efficiency for their traditional internal combustion vehicles in accordance with regional fuel regulations, but they say their ready to make their main goal to be carbon neutral and get rid of tail pipe emissions in the next 20 years.
Let’s see if we are ready to make the leap.