General Motors has released its sustainability report for 2014, highlighting ways to restructure its global vehicle portfolio, improve vehicle efficiency and rethink manufacturing processes in an effort to support an industry which the automaker says is “unsustainable in its current form”.
In 2010, GM set manufacturing commitments to vastly improve energy efficiency by the year 2020 at its facilities located all around the globe. So far, it has made steady progress toward its objectives. Renewable energy use has expanded to 66.2 megawatts toward a goal of 125 megawatts, 83 of its manufacturing sites are now landfill-free, and water intensity has been reduced by nine percent out of a goal of 15 percent. Energy and carbon intensity have also been reduced by 10 and 7 percent respectively, out of a goal of 20 percent.
The company also now has more than five models achieving more than 40 miles per gallon and plans to build upon this with improved aerodynamics and smaller, cleaner engines. GM reports it has progressed in its previous product commitments of fuel economy, electrification and emissions reduction and will now also strive to reduce the carbon emissions of its model lineup in China by 28 percent by 2020.
Last year, GM set goals towards increasing the number of electrified vehicles on the road. As of 2013, it had 153,034 electrified vehicles in customer hands, only a small dent in its goal of 500,000 by 2017, but progress none the less. Its electric vehicle lineup includes the Chevrolet Volt and its European counterpart the Opel Ampera, the Chevrolet Springo EV in China and the latest additions, the Chevrolet Spark EV and the Cadillac ELR.
In addition to these goals, the automaker says increased connectivity in its cars will help consumers drive more efficiently. With technologies like OnStar route optimization, many will be able to navigate ways around congestion and get feedback on how to drive more efficiently. GM is also developing a vision for the future where vehicles are all connected and share information with each other to help anticipate and avoid accidents.
Nine of GM’s plants last year were recognized for meeting the Energy Star Challenge for Industry criteria, contributing to an industry-leading total of 63 facilities and a saving of $162 million in energy costs. Efforts towards earning the distinction included removing coal-fired boilers at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant ans saving using more landfill gas at its Fort Wayne and Orion assembly plants.
“We like the results we are seeing, but we fully recognize we have a tremendous amount of work to do,” CEO Mary Barra said. “We must innovate more, seize opportunities faster and work harder to achieve true leadership, a claim that only matters if our customers, employees, communities and other stakeholders agree.”
GM knows the transformation from an unsustainable industry to sustainable one won’t come from just their efforts alone. They have partnered up with companies like Honda to develop fuel cell systems and joined forces with non-government organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and C to create “a greener economy,” and improve overall efficiency in time for 2020.