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General Motors exec: Warming climate calls for shift to electric vehicles

/ 06:21 PM May 26, 2021

The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV), towing three carriages, runs along a blue line under which power strips are buried for recharging, at an amusement park in Seoul. General Motors says EVs are crucial in light of the climate crisis. AFP PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The road to electric vehicles (EVs) will not happen overnight, but it is a necessary direction for the environment in light of the climate crisis, according to the executive of one of the world’s largest automakers.

General Motors’ Tom Cooney, vice president of global public policy, said the company is working with governments worldwide, including the Philippines and Southeast Asia, to shift toward electric-powered vehicles, seen as a cheaper, cleaner alternative to gas-guzzling cars.

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“Change can be hard, transformation can be hard, but people do change,” he told foreign journalists in a briefing organized by the Foreign Press Centers of the US Department of State last week.

“This change is coming and it’s for the environment. This is necessary for climate change,” he added.

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Early this year, General Motors shocked the auto industry by announcing it would only sell EVs by 2035, making a dramatic end to the gasoline and diesel-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, roaring vehicles that made GM famous around the world.

The announcement came a day after US President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders on climate action, including a goal of installing 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations by 2030.

Nissan study

In a September 2020 Nissan study, respondents in six Southeast Asian markets were highly enthusiastic about owning an electric vehicle, with Indonesians, Filipinos and Thais showing the highest interest levels. In the next three years, 45 percent of Filipino respondents intend to buy an electric vehicle.

Although, overall, 48 percent of respondents said that they feared running out of power before they could reach a charging station, while 77 percent of respondents said they considered tax benefits and 75 percent said they looked at charging infrastructure in residential buildings as incentives for switching to electric vehicles.

By 2025, Cooney said GM plans to launch 30 fully electric models worldwide, investing $27 billion.

“We have an aspiration to be carbon-neutral by 2040. That means our fleet and also our operations and our facilities [will be carbon-neutral],” he said.

No panacea

Electric vehicles have been touted as one way to combat the climate crisis, especially since they reduce emissions from gas and diesel vehicles.

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However, it won’t completely solve the transportation sector’s huge emissions. Electric cars would not emit any emissions directly but would still run on electricity produced by coal and fossil fuels in many parts of the world.

“In countries with coal-intensive electricity generation, the benefits of EVs are smaller,” according to an analysis by UK-based Carbon Brief in 2019. “However, as countries decarbonize electricity generation to meet their climate targets, driving emissions will fall for existing EVs and manufacturing emissions will fall for new EVs.”

According to government data, vehicles are responsible for most of the country’s emissions and poor air quality, especially in urban areas.

Challenges come with the shift. The public has concerns about the high costs of electric cars and range anxiety—fear that the car will run out of power before reaching its destination—or so many countries around the world do not yet have adequate infrastructure that enables these vehicles to find mainstream acceptance, such as charging stations.

“We’re working with governments around the world… in association with other automakers to help build that environment out there and increase consumer confidence to adopt an EV,” said Cooney.

It’s all about government incentives, consumer incentives and infrastructure investments, he said.

“General Motors itself is making huge investments in EV charging infrastructure with various private sector partners, but that public-sector support is essential as well,” he added.

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TOPICS: Climate, Electric Vehicles, General Motors, Tom Cooney, warming
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