Monday, February 04, 2019

Hints of EV Revolution Rising

Blue Chevy Volt Charging (Credit: GM) Click to Enlarge.
Just after Thanksgiving in late Nov 2018, General Motors (GM) announced that it was shutting down 5 factories and laying off 14,800 employees.  While President Trump expressed his disapproval, the stock market approved, giving GM’s stock a modest boost.  While the layoffs made headlines, many reporters, and readers, missed the prime reasons for the announced factory closures.

GM was shutting them down not only because they were making smaller sedans, which Americans no longer buy, but also because GM – like all other automakers – is switching to EVs and increasingly the autonomous variety, AEVs.

Trying to explain the reasons, GM CEO Mary Barra said, “This industry is changing very rapidly,” adding, “These are things we are doing to strengthen our core business.”

She could have been more forthcoming by pointing out that GM, like all other automakers, must quickly switch gears – literally – to a future where transportation will not only be largely electrified but increasingly moving towards self-driving EVs.  Future factories, like future AEVs, will increasingly be digitalized.

In a press release, GM said it will “prioritize future vehicle investments in its next-generation battery-electric architectures” by doubling investments in electric and self-driving cars over the next 2 years.  It promised to have more than 20 EV models around the world by 2023.

The cancellation of the Volt, one of the first mass-market battery-powered cars on the market, should not come as a shock.   It merely signals that GM is looking past semi-electric to full battery-powered vehicles.

GM is not alone.  A recent study by the Brookings Institute said that some 9.5 million jobs across several sectors will be affected — though not necessarily lost — amid the digitalization of transportation, especially in manufacturing.  Automakers are increasingly partnering with hi-tech Silicon Valley firms to shift towards autonomous EVs and carsharing businesses.

And the race is on as countries with major auto manufacturing sectors try not to be left behind.  Likewise, governments are promoting EVs through incentives, mandates, or a combination of both (box below).

Read more at Hints of EV Revolution Rising

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