Can General Motors Use Electric Cars To Revolutize American Car Making?

GM

Last week was a big week for the electric car — as new players entered the game and China moved to start phasing out gasoline-powered autos. But this week may top it, thanks to one single, massive announcement: General Motors is dumping gasoline in favor of an electric future.

Today, GM announced that it would have two new fully electric models for next year, with more arriving every year:

This morning, the American automotive giant announced that it is working toward an all-electric, zero-emissions future. That starts with two new, fully electric models next year—then at least 18 more by 2023. “General Motors believes the future is all-electric,” says Mark Reuss, the company’s head of product. “We are far along in our plan to lead the way to that future world.”

GM wouldn’t commit to an exact date that it would leave fossil fuels behind altogether. It says that’ll depend on individual markets and demand, so some nations may still have a few gas hogs on the road for a while yet. Still, this is a big step for the electric car, particularly on the domestic front.

Automakers have announced moves like this before, of course. Volvo will be off gasoline by 2019. But GM is different. It’s not just one of the biggest automakers in the world, it makes cars around the world under a dozen different brands — from Buick to Wulong — meaning that every battery it builds can be on the road around the planet at shocking speed. Undeniably, China’s decision to get rid of gasoline-powered vehicles plays a role, here. China is GM’s biggest market.

But what does this mean for American cars? The main roadblock for electric cars, at least in the US, has been cost and range, and part of the high cost is a matter of scale. While electric car sales have spiked, it’s still a tiny corner of the market. Costs can’t come down until automakers can hit the economy of scale necessary to drop costs. But, working in GM’s favor is that technology, like batteries, gets cheaper over time. This isn’t a race to save the planet, really, but rather a race for technological superiority. Will the US be the leader in electric cars? GM wants the answer to be yes, and we doubt other American automakers will disagree.