General Motors is one of the most outspoken supporters of electric vehicle technology. The automaker already has a battery-electric vehicle in its portfolio in the way of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and it plans to invest $20 billion on EVs through to 2025, but despite its confidence in the emerging tech, it knows that it will still take a long while for battery-operated powertrains to take the place of the internal combustion engine.
Speaking to Bloomberg this week, General Motors CEO Mary Barra said the company “believes the transition” to electric vehicles will “happen over time,” and that the internal combustion engine is here to stay for a while longer. Bloomberg also asked her if she believes electric powertrains will have displaced the combustion engine in 20 years, to which she replied “it will happen in a little bit longer period [than 20 years], but it will happen.”
A number of major obstacles stand in the way of the mass consumer adoption of electric vehicles, including battery cost, charging infrastructure, real-world range and charge times. GM currently has a number of new battery-electric vehicles in the works, including the GMC Hummer EV, Chevrolet Bolt EUV and Cadillac Lyriq.
A key part of GM’s future electric vehicle strategy is its new proprietary Ultium lithium-ion battery technology. The Ultium battery packs will range in size from 50 kWh to 200 kWh, with the biggest pack providing up to 400 miles of estimated driving range in certain vehicles. Ultium packs will utilize cells made at the new Lordstown battery plant that GM is currently building in partnership with South Korean battery supplier LG Chem.
Barra was also asked about the coming advent of fully autonomous vehicles. She believes General Motors’ Cruise subsidiary will have a fully autonomous vehicle on the road within the next five years and says the technology will be safer than a human driver when it launches.
“I definitely think it will happen within next five years,” the Michigan native said. “Our Cruise team is continuing to develop technology so it’s safer than human driver. I think you’ll see it clearly within five years.”
GM had previously said it planned to launch a fully driverless taxi service before the end of 2019 but was later forced to postpone the rollout of the technology indefinitely due to engineering setbacks. It debuted the Cruise Origin driverless vehicle earlier this year and plans to have the vehicle in production at its Detroit-Hamtramck plant by 2022.