A month into 2021, automakers are shifting gears towards electric cars and a green future. General Motors announced “plans to eliminate emissions from its passenger vehicles by 2035, and become carbon-neutral across its operations by 2040,” according to Popular Science.
This decision came just as President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders promoting the fight against climate change. General Motors, which had been a vocal supporter of former president Donald J. Trump, switched to its green resolution a few days after the 2020 presidential election was called, according to The New York Times.
The company also plans to change its production practices by working with suppliers to introduce sustainable practices for future electric vehicles.
Following General Motors’ announcement, Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo announced similar plans to go green.
Honda detailed a three-step process for becoming eco-friendly on their website.
First, it will remove any environmentally harmful substances from its products. Second, by removing those, Honda will be able to create parts for vehicles that make them more easily recyclable.
The third step involves removing limited natural resources from the design of their cars.
Ford Motor Company has also set a goal to achieve carbon neutrality globally by 2050, while implementing production changes to address climate change.
One distinct difference between Ford and the other United States automakers’s approaches is that Ford pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, prioritizing the coalition’s goal to reduce global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Ford is also working with California to comply with a recently issued executive order by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
In September he announced that only electric vehicles will be sold in the state starting in 2035, which Ford will aid in supplying for. The eventual ban on internal-combustion vehicles will aim to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions since it would also reduce pollution given off by regular gas cars.
Experts support these manufacturers’ pushes to combat climate change.
“We congratulate Ford on its commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050,” Mindy Lubber, CEO and president of the sustainability nonprofit organization Ceres, said.
“Ford recognizes the urgency to address climate change, and we urge every company to take action and commit to science-based targets within their global enterprises.”
This green movement spearheaded by many manufacturers, however, is fueled both by the impending climate crisis, as well as profit motive.
“EVs are simpler to make, more profitable, and higher growth,” Adam Jonas, an auto analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote.
An important aspect of designing eco-friendly cars is the car battery. Without a battery, a car is nothing more than a metal frame with wheels and wires.
Electrical vehicles run on electricity, but that electricity still comes from fossil fuels in many countries. The difference in fossil fuel usage between electrical vehicles and regular gas cars is the battery.
Over the course of the past decade, battery prices have dropped 88% and continue to fall. This is due to China’s ability to mass produce batteries at a faster pace.
With batteries becoming more accessible, “vehicle manufacturers start including larger batteries with longer driving ranges,” according to Ars Technica. This means that electric car batteries will need to be charged less and less as the battery improves, resulting in an increase in sales.
If the batteries are produced in factories already operating on renewable energy, emissions would be reduced even more.
Though this green future seems to be a positive one, some experts believe that the shift comes too late.
“Electrification is necessary but not enough,” said Professor Greg Marsden from the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds University.”
“Travel demand reductions of at least 20% are required, along with a major shift away from the car if we are to meet our climate goals.”
While switching from gas cars to electric cars will reduce pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, the environment would benefit the most from less car travel overall.
In fact, bicycles are often recommended over cars. The amount of fossil fuels used to manufacture a bike is offset by riding the bike for at least 1,500 kilometers or approximately 932 miles, according to Inside EVs.
This mileage isn’t a large number, considering that the average person drives 13,500 miles every year, according to The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.
Even if the United States does not make a large shift from cars to bikes, electric vehicles provide some relief in the fight against climate change.