General Motors has made another proclamation at CES 2022, this time providing a timeline for electric variants of its heavy-duty pickups. HD EVs are scheduled for 2035, which just happens to be the same time it has promised to have phased out gasoline engines. Presumably, that means the hardest working of GM’s work vehicles will also be the very last models to go all-electric.
“As previously announced, our plan is to have all new light-duty vehicles be electric by 2035,” GM CEO Mary Barra said during her keynote address. “And today, I’m pleased to announce that we’ll introduce all-electric heavy-duty vehicles on that same timetable.”
The automaker entered into an agreement with five other automakers during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in November to end gas vehicle sales by 2040. Signatories included Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, Chinese automaker BYD, and a slew of fleet operators hoping to do continued business in thirty nations that likewise signed various, non-binding environmental commitments.
That provides GM with some additional time to continue selling HD pickups utilizing liquid fuel. But it’s hard to take any of these climate promises totally seriously in the first place. China has once again stalled commitments and placed itself on a timeline that is decades behind the United States, despite the Eastern nation now being the worlds leader in air pollution buy a sizable margin. Though other groups have also made lopsided agreements and COP26 lacks any serious obligations, making the similarly unequal Paris Climate Agreements look positively ironclad in comparison.
I’m just taking the long way of telling you not to count on GM (or anybody else) sticking to the agreed-upon targets. Let’s not forget that General Motors made the very first mass-produced and purpose-designed electric vehicle in 1996, with suggestions that it would fundamentally change the industry, only to scrap the program a few years later and reclaim all the cars. It would take well over a decade for the company’s next EV to appear. Granted, there’s different leadership in place today and the whole industry is now committing itself to electrification. But automakers have a habit of doing what’s in their best interest, even if it means breaking a promise or five.
The relevant technologies also might not be there come target time. While EVs are making genuine headway in becoming directly comparable to internal combustion vehicles, manufacturers have continued to stress how to improve their ability to effectively haul heavy loads. A few years ago engineers from multiple Japanese automakers told me their biggest hurdle with EVs were finding ways to maximize energy density to a point where it wouldn’t dramatically sap overall range whenever large payloads were at play. Toyota outright said this situation actually contributed to its decision to prioritize hybridization, rather than focus entirely on battery electric vehicles.
Then again, we’re talking about something that’s over a decade away. GM knows that placing such a large buffer between promise and delivery gives it plenty of time to cram everything down the memory hole. However, if the current pace of battery development is retained, a 2035 Chevrolet Silverado HD EV certainly sounds plausible. After all, the 2024 Chevy Silverado EV is fast approaching and GM is probably already using R&D teams to increase the relevant specifications to make usable HD models in thirteen years.
I’m of the mind that the upcoming deluge of electric pickups is going to decide the fate of HD EVs, however. If the domestic market goes big on models like the Ford Lightning, Tesla Cybertruck, and Chevrolet Silverado EV, then it seems assured that HD models will follow. But if those trucks turn out to be poorly suited for anything other than showing off to the neighbors (fun fact: Pickup trucks were originally working vehicles) then it seems less likely that there will be bigger models being planned for contractors in need of heavy lifting.[Image: General Motors]
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