On the assembly line of a General Motors plant outside Detroit, Michigan, there are two things auto workers like Mark Owens will never see again: gas tanks and internal combustion engines.
“Quite different. I never thought I’d see an all-electric vehicle that we didn’t have gas tanks in,” Owens told CBS News’ Ben Tracy.
The GM plant makes the Chevy Bolt, the company’s only mass-produced fully electric vehicle, but that’s about to change.
Mark Reuss, president of GM, said electric cars would no longer be a novelty for the rich. GM is now heavily reliant on batteries and plans to launch 30 new electric vehicles in a variety of price ranges over the next five years.
“It’s the biggest thing the industry has seen in a long time,” he said.
The automaker is rebuilding its 4.5 million square foot facility in Michigan and calling it Factory Zero for zero emissions. The name of the street outside the door has also been changed to Electric Avenue.
CBS News took a look at Factory Zero, which plant manager Jim Quick said was the factory of the future.
“When this body shop is done, it will be General Motors’ largest body shop,” said Quick.
Factory Zero will soon be producing an electric version of the once infamous gas eaterand this summer GM will launch the larger version of the bolt called the EUV.
In the United States, transportation accounts for nearly a third of the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
Part of President Biden’s infrastructure bill would help people buy greener electric cars that are more expensive. GM said soIn their statement, GM said they are striving to eliminate tailpipe emissions.
“There’s a bit of leeway. The effort to do this really depends on the consumer and how well we solve some of the problems people perceive with electric vehicles,” Reuss said.
Reuss wants to defend himself against the view that electric vehicles are more expensive than standard cars. Batteries, which make up about 70% of the cost of an electric vehicle, are now getting cheaper.
GM builds and tests them in-house to further reduce costs. The car manufacturers also rely on the federal government.
President Biden’s infrastructure plan calls for 500,000 new EV charging stations across the country by 2030. Alissa Priddle, editor at MotorTrend, said automakers will soon be offering consumers far more EV options.
“The reason people aren’t buying electric vehicles right now is because they don’t want a fun little capsule that doesn’t do what they need for their lifestyle or family,” she said.
According to market research group IHS Markit, less than 1% of the 250 million vehicles on American roads are electric.
IHS Markit found that EVs accounted for only 2% of all US auto sales last year. Almost all of these were sold by Tesla, which is now worth more than GM, Ford, and Toyota combined.
The exhaust pipe is critically endangered as states like California and Massachusetts, as well as countries like Japan, the UK and the entire European Union, will soon ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles to combat climate change.
Ford just announced that it will be fully electric in Europe by 2030. It already sells a battery-powered Mustang in the US and will electrify the country’s best-selling vehicle next year – the Ford F-150 pickup.
“As an automaker, you really can’t afford not to have a full portfolio of electric vehicles in the next five years or you will be left behind,” said Priddle.
Electric vehicles make up more than half of all new cars sold in Norway. In recent advertisements, GM is telling Americans that there is no way Norway should be king of the EV road.
With many automakers switching to electric vehicles, Reuss anticipates some companies will not survive the transition.
“This desire to win is very deep and so I would say that anyone who makes electric vehicles now or in the future is a great motivation for us to win,” he said.