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GM claims to be all-in on electric vehicles but CEO Barra asks Trump administration to cut back on EVs

Several legacy automakers, like GM, are claiming to be all-in on electric vehicles, but they are still lobbying to relax fuel consumption standards that would accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles.

GM CEO Mary Barra is now reportedly meeting with Trump administration about relaxing the standard as the EPA is even considering trying to force states to stop following California’s more aggressive standards.

During the Obama era, automakers agreed to a plan to double their fleet wide average fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025 in the US.

The plan would have encouraged them mass produce more fuel-efficient vehicles, like electric vehicles, in order to compensate for their highly profitable SUVs and pickup trucks.

Even though they originally agreed to the rule, the industry launched a renewed effort to change the rules since the election of Donald Trump as President and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA.

The automaker lobbying group, which includes virtually every automaker except for Tesla and a few French automakers, sent a letter to Trump’s transition team just two days after his election to lobby for him to relax the rules.

They repeated that effort on several occasions last year as Pruitt made it clear he was open to relax the rule despite the mission of his department to protect the environment.

Now, according to Reuters, GM CEO Mary Barra recently met with the EPA and “reconfirmed their priorities for modernizing fuel economy standards”.

From GM directly, a spokesperson says that they need “one national set of requirements” that “comprehend new technology developments like increased shared and autonomous electric vehicles.”

When communicated through their lobbying group, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, they made it clearer that they are not sure consumers will want to buy enough electric vehicles for them to comply with the rule.

Alliance CEO Mitch Bainwol wrote at the time:

“The combination of low gas prices and the existing fuel efficiency gains from the early years of the program is undercutting consumer willingness to buy the vehicles with more expensive alternative powertrains that are necessary for the sector to comply with the more stringent standards in out-years,”

Bainwol argues that demand for “alternative powertrains” (aka electric cars) is not strong enough for automakers to achieve fuel consumption requirements.

GM has issued their support for the effort to relax the requirements on several occasions at this point despite Barra stating multiple times that they think “the future is all-electric” and GM plans to be the leader in electrification.

We contacted GM about the contradiction in their message and we will update if we get an answer.

Electrek’s Take

This double-face thing is really frustrating to me as an EV enthusiast. It makes it harder to get on board with GM’s EV programs when they are trying to slow down the overall adoption of electric vehicles.

On top of it, it now sounds like they are even on board with the EPA imposing a national standard and forcing California to stop pushing its own more aggressive CARB goals.

As we reported last week, EPA Chief Scott Pruitt signaled a war with California over CAFE mileage standards in an extremely disturbing interview during which he clearly sounded more like a fossil fuel advocate than the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency.

California has been the leading state in the US for electric vehicle adoption and while we think that even their standards are too low, they are still the most aggressive and it would be a shame to see the state relax them.

At this point, it’s clear that the argument that there wouldn’t be enough demand for electric vehicles makes no sense. Tesla has proven this wrong on several occasions and if other automakers would start mass producing EVs, it would make them more affordable and entirely competitive with gas-powered cars.

It’s almost impossible that other automakers don’t know that and therefore, it makes me very suspicious of the real reason behind them lobbying to lower the standards.

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