GM aims for green energy goals

GM plans to emit zero emissions by 2033, other auto companies follow suit

By Joseph Cotton, Campus News Editor
Photo courtesy of
Xavier professor of economics and sustainability Dr. Nancy Betraux claims that electric vehicles fit consumer standards for performance, efficiency and cost. However, Ohio’s lack of tax incentives for electric car-buyers has thus far failed to motivate consumers to make greener transport choices.

General Motors’ (GM) Chief Executive, Mary T. Barra, announced that the company will aim to sell only zero-emission cars and trucks by the year 2033. 

GM has already invested $17 billion in two new electric vehicles (EVs), to be taken to market by 2025. It has also announced plans to build a factory in Lordstown, Ohio that will produce batteries for the new slate of vehicles and bring 1,100 jobs to the area.  

The most recent announcement is likely a reaction to two political events: China’s recent announcement that most vehicles need to be electric powered in the next 15 years and the Biden administration’s string of executive orders on issues surrounding climate change and emissions. 

The New York Times reported that Washington lobbyists for other auto-makers and energy companies view the move as a way to build more political rapport with the new administration as the auto industry looks to negotiate a new fuel economy standard. 

The Sustainability Director at GM, Dane Parker, pushed back on that notion, stating that the trends in the economy and the motivation to build a more sustainable company were the reasons for the announcement. 

Echoing that sentiment, Xavier’s Economics and Sustainability chair and member of the sustainability committee Dr. Nancy Bertaux stated that the goal was both well within reach for GM and makes sense economically.  

“I think they will (reach their goal). I think they should,” she said. “They need to. Just take a look at what is happening around the world.” 

Bertaux cited the state of California, one of the largest automotive markets in the U.S., which will prohibit the sale of cars that use internal combustion engines (ICE) as another example of the market forces that are pushing car manufactures toward electric vehicles. 

Bertaux, a driver of electric vehicles herself, stated that electric vehicles are already starting to make a lot of sense for consumers. 

“People are looking for performance, efficiency and low cost. There’s not much else really. The reduction in emission and pollution is almost a bonus at that point,” she said.

She went on to say that maintenance costs for EVs are much lower than conventional ICE vehicles. 

That said, the biggest concern about the viability of EVs is the infrastructure. According to Bertaux, action must be taken by private companies and the government.

Bertaux noted the Ford plan to build a fast charging network of EVs in preparation for its plans to launch an electric version of its popular F-series pickup trucks. She also stated that a government infrastructure project would be more than achievable. “Of course we can. We went to the moon!” Bertaux exclaimed when asked if the U.S. could build a fast charging network soon. “It’s a no brainer.” 

Bertaux said that current government incentives for EV purchases can be a mixed bag. She stated that federal tax credits helped her make the jump to EVs. She also stated that her sister received a state level tax credit from Oregon to incentivise their purchase. 

“In Ohio, however, there are no incentives. They also have me pay an extra $500 per year because I don’t pay gas taxes,” Bertaux said. “I think that is ridiculous because the pollution costs of the gas vehicle are a whole lot more.” 

Currently, Xavier has one EV charging station on campus. It was built using money given by a City of Cincinnati grant in 2018 as a part of a Green Cincinnati Plan initiative.