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GM sees an electric future, but it'll take decades to get there

The automaker's CEO Mary Barra believes we won't see EVs displace traditional vehicles for decades.

Mary Barra
General Motors

General Motors is all-in on electric vehicles and the automaker has big plans to challenge traditional companies and rising stars like Tesla. Yet, it sounds like GM knows the world can't flip a switch and suddenly see demand for EVs skyrocket.

In fact, GM CEO Mary Barra believes it will take decades for EVs to become more common than cars with an internal-combustion engine under the hood. Barra made the comments during Bloomberg Television's Leadership Live program after a question about how long we have until all vehicles on the road are electric. Twenty years time is too soon, Barra said, but GM as a whole sees the process occurring slowly over time.

Even though by the automaker's best estimate we won't see widespread EV sales until after 2040, GM continues to sink millions of dollars into electric cars

While the automaker only sells a single EV today, the Chevy Bolt EV, we'll see two more soon. An electric Cadillac SUV, named the Lyriq, will likely debut this year, as will the GMC Hummer EV pickup truck. Eventually, a skateboard platform and GM's Ultium battery technology will underpin at least 20 new electric cars at GM.

But GM won't be the only one venturing into a world where automaker lineups increasingly squeeze in EVs. Volkswagen, Ford, Hyundai and Kia all have similar plans to continue introducing more EVs, even if US buyers aren't totally ready for them.

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