Transportation

Are ‘All-Electric’ Cars the Future?

General Motors is leaning that way, but it will take more than buy-in from company leaders to make the dream a reality.

by Thomas Gnau, Dayton Daily News / October 4, 2017
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(TNS) -- Now that leaders of General Motors apparently believe in an “all-electric” future, what happens next?

Not much immediately. But many believe long-term changes are afoot.

Perhaps you’ve heard: The biggest American automaker said this week that in the next 18 months, it will introduce two new all-electric vehicles.

But — and here’s the kicker — that will be just the first of at least 20 new all-electric vehicles that will launch by 2023, the automaker said.

“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of product development, purchasing and supply chain, said in GM’s announcement. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”

In many ways, Dayton loves internal combustion engines. The DMAX plant in Moraine produces diesel engines for heavy trucks, and the plant employs more than 600 people.

Asked what if anything the announcement means for the DMAX plant, Mary Ann Brown, a GM spokeswoman, said, “Specifics related to plants and resources and how they will be allocated to accomplish this strategy will be announced at a later date.”

John Heitmann, a University of Dayton professor and a nationally recognized authority on the history of the automobile, thinks the internal combustion engine’s days may be numbered — but that’s not because of any fault with that form of technology.

“I think they’re numbered, but they’re numbered more by state decree — particularly in Europe, where governments are actually mandating EV (electric vehicle) use,” Heitmann said.

Heitmann thinks that if consumers are asked, “I think they would be more than happy to keep the gasoline engine around.”

“Nobody is asking the consumers what they really want,” he added. “EVs can be great, but I think consumers need to make that decision, not just East Coast-West Coast types.”

Dayton Power & Light says it has established 20 EV charging stations in the Dayton area. Locations range from universities, government buildings, schools, parking garages and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (A message seeking reaction to GM’s announcement was left with a DP&L spokeswoman.)

“Infrastructure remains very spotty, particularly in the heartland,” Heitmann said. “You really do have to plan your trips.”

GM’s announcement is the latest in what is becoming something of an apparent trend.

In July, Chinese-owned Volvo Cars announced that all of its vehicles from 2019 on will have an electric motor. Ford has said it is going to make its own push toward more EVs.

“China’s air pollution problems have prompted a more serious push towards cleaner automobiles,” Michele Krebs, executive analyst with Auto Trader, said in reaction to Volvo’s decision this summer. “European markets need to find a replacement for diesel engines as well. Can this commitment spell success in the U.S. though?

©2017 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.