General Motors announced today that it will introduce two new all-electric vehicles within the next 18 months, the first of at least 20 new EVs that the automaker will launch by 2023. GM also renewed its commitment to hydrogen fuel cell technology, a clean fuel concept that still needs major infrastructure upgrades before it can become a viable alternative.
At a press conference in Detroit this morning, GM’s executive vice president of global product development Mark Reuss said that the company was “committed to an all-electric future,” but cautioned that it wasn’t going to happen “by flipping a switch.”
“These aren’t just words in a war of press releases,” Reuss added. “We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.”
The new cars that will be introduced will be based on “learnings” from the Chevy Bolt, GM’s well-received (and increasingly well-selling) mass-market EV. But that doesn’t mean that GM’s future EVs will look exactly like the Bolt, or even share a similar architecture.
“Whatever we do, from an electrification stand point, the next version will be better than the version we have on the road,” Reuss said. “That vision involves everything that we’ve learned from the Bolt, but the architecture piece of this continues to evolve.” That includes lighter vehicles and more flexible battery packs with an evolving number of fuel cells, he added.
GM’s announcement is part of a broader push by automakers worldwide to transition their production toward all-electric vehicles and away from internal combustion engine cars. Last month, Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, said it plans to offer electrified versions of all of its cars by 2022. Volvo said it would cease production of gas-only vehicles by 2019. And Volkswagen said it would electrify its entire 300-car lineup by 2030.
But compared to its competitors, GM’s announcement was slightly more tame, committing to almost two dozen new all-electric vehicles while steering clear of a much grander promise of across-the-board electrification.
“Because of the different regulatory environments and the different duty cycles that our customers want, there isn’t a single year that I can give you on that,” Reuss said.
GM also unveiled a new concept vehicle, the SURUS, or Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure, a fuel cell-powered, four-wheel steer concept vehicle on a heavy-duty truck frame that’s driven by two electric motors. Reuss said that GM’s hydrogen-powered cars will likely lean toward commercial applications, like delivery trucks or ambulances.
This makes more sense than producing retail fuel cell cars, like competitors like Honda, Hyundai, and Kia are doing. Outside of California, the fueling infrastructure for hydrogen cars is practically nonexistent.
Electrification is all the rage in the auto industry, but the cars themselves represent only a tiny fraction of the entire market. Reuss was bullish on GM’s ability to turn a profit, however. “We will be profitable,” he said. “Period.”