GM and the Electric Car Promise

CBJ — In a race against a number of innovative competitors the head of General Motors has boldly said the automaker will make money selling electric cars by 2021.

CEO Mary Barra made that promise to investors in Detroit. But Barra did not explain in detail how the company would accomplish such a lofty goal in just three years, especially given that no automaker has yet been able to make that claim.

If GM can meet Barra’s ambitious profitability target, then it will house two different businesses by the mid-2020s: A traditional focus in North America on trucks, sport utility vehicles and cars fueled with petroleum, and a global electric car company centred in China, branching into pay-per-use services such as robotaxis.

The lifespan and cost of battery cells are believed to be at the core of profitability expectations. The cost of a GM battery pack, such as the one used now in the Bolt EV, is US$10,000 to US$12,000, or nearly one-third of the car’s US$36,000 sticker price. By 2021, however, that price could drop to US$6,000.

Toyota has patented more battery technology in recent years than GM, although its focus has been almost solely on the Prius hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, rather than on battery-powered cars like GM’s Bolt EV.