General Motors will have all of its U.S. operations running on renewable energy by 2025 — five years earlier than it originally planned.
Most major automakers are in the process of switching to alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Ford this week cited the availability of renewable power as a key reason it will set up a massive new EV assembly plant in Tennessee.
While much of the attention has been on curbing pollution from vehicle tailpipes, automotive manufacturing facilities dump millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, a good bit created by the utility companies that provide power, but also from on-site production from furnaces and other energy sources.
GM has been positioning itself as a leader in sustainability, targeting both the sale of battery-powered vehicles and a reduction in emissions at its plants.
Speeding up the shift
Just last January, it announced new steps to source clean energy for U.S. facilities, with a goal of switching to 100% renewable power by 2030. It now says it will achieve that goal by 2025. That will eliminate production of an estimated 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide during that five-year period, GM said.
“We know climate action is a priority and every company must push itself to decarbonize further and faster,” GM Chief Sustainability Officer Kristen Siemen said in a statement. “That’s what we are doing by aiming to achieve 100% renewable energy five years earlier in the U.S. as we continue to advance on our commitment to lead an all-electric, carbon-neutral future.”
GM has been accelerating the switch to renewable for much of the past decade. Steps include shifting sources from coal and natural gas to solar and wind-generated energy. Solar arrays have popped up on-site at many of the automaker’s operations. At the Factory Zero EV plant in Detroit, energy from the sun will be used to charge up vehicles like the GMC Hummer pickup before being shipped to customers.
The automaker has set a goal of completely phasing out internal combustion engines in retail products by 2035 and plans to have at least 30 battery-electric vehicles in production by the middle of this decade. The Hummer will be its next, followed by the Cadillac Lyriq in 2022.
The largest of the domestic automakers also plans to “address intermittency,” installing new energy storage systems that can fill in the gaps overnight when solar cells stop working, or when wind generators are becalmed. GM has been working on ways to reuse old vehicle batteries for energy storage but hasn’t said if it will use that approach on a mass scale.
Other manufacturers, including Honda and Toyota, have been migrating to clean energy at their own U.S. plants.
Ford CEO Jim Farley stressed that the availability of renewable energy sources was a critical factor in its choice of Tennessee as the site for the 6-square-mile Blue Oval City it plans to open by 2025. The complex will build all-electric versions of Ford’s F-Series pickups, as well as the batteries to power them. The primary energy supplier will be the Tennessee Valley Authority which relies on hydro and other green sources. The facility also can tap geothermal energy from beneath the site, Ford COO Lisa Drake told TheDetroitBureau.com.
Ford wants to use 100% renewable energy for its global operations by 2035 — but it hasn’t laid out specific plans for the U.S.