Not Every Automaker Pledges to Be Fully Electric by 2040

This week, a global climate summit reassured the world that a new wave of electric cars is coming. In some capacity, almost every automaker committed to cutting back on their emissions, with some singing a pledge to only produce zero-emissions vehicles by 2040. Some have even set timelines for their electric cars, and dates for when new gasoline vehicles won’t be available. But that doesn’t mean every automaker is ready to go all-electric yet.

Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Truck
Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Truck | Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Many automakers pedged all-electric cars by 2040 or sooner

Of the six automakers that signed the pledge, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo are the biggest. Other automakers included BYD, based in China, Jaguar Land Rover according to The New York Times. Though, for many of these companies, there have been plans in place to go all-electric by or before 2040 anyways.

GM, for instance, has been committed to selling light electric cars and trucks by 2035, and going all-electric in 2040. Meanwhile, Volvo and Mercedes have planned to go all-electric by 2030, an easier feat for them due to their lower production volume.

However, for Mercedes-Benz, and many other automakers, there is a catch. The phrase “where market conditions allow” is important to note because if there isn’t enough consumer demand for EVs, these companies will continue producing gas-powered cars. Even still, having a majority of new car sales be electric is better than nothing.

Along with these automakers, 30 countries signed the pledge to commit to all-electric vehicle sales by 2040. This included Britain, Canada, and India (the fourth-largest auto market in the world).

But there are some big brands and important countries that are missing from the list. And while there may be a reason for their lack of commitment, that doesn’t make it better.

The countries and car companies that didn’t commit to all-electric cars by 2040

Volkswagen ID.4 electric vehicle
Volkswagen ID.4 electric vehicle | Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

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Despite the fact that these three countries have been researching and harking climate change the most, Germany, China, and the United States didn’t put their names on the list. President Biden has made it very clear that he wants 50% of all car sales in America to be electric, which is a reasonable goal considering the scale of our population. As of right now, electric cars make up less than 3% of the cars on the road.

But more discouraging are the three biggest automakers, Toyota, Nissan Renault, and Volkswagen, who also didn’t sign the pledge. Volkswagen has been taking major strides to switch over to electric vehicles. And while part of it is to mask their Dieselgate past, their efforts have been significant. And their ability to scale toward zero emissions by 2040 should be relatively easy.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s electric car efforts have been lackluster. The company has revealed its first electric vehicle, the Toyota bZ4x, but by comparison to other automakers, that’s a rookie number. And considering Toyota is one of the largest automakers in the world, they need to put in the effort to switch from gas-powered cars to electric cars.

Though, in truth, many of the companies that didn’t sign this pledge have shown initiative in other areas to switch to electric cars.

How the automakers who didn’t sign the pledge are working toward a cleaner tomorrow

2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid emblem
2022 Toyota Corolla Hybrid emblem | Toyota

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Toyota in particular isn’t fully invested in battery electric vehicles. Its bread and butter are hydrogen cars. And same is true with Honda, which hasn’t even released a single electric car concept yet. But almost every automaker, especially Honda and Toyota, is improving hybrid technologies.

While it may sound like a cop-out, hybrid vehicles are being considered electric vehicles. They’re not, but because they reduce emissions in comparison to their gas-powered counterparts, it’s a step in the right direction. For many electric car skeptics, hybrids will serve as a transition vehicle, combining the familiarity of gas with the eco-friendliness of a hybrid.

But there’s still so much unknown as we charge into an electric tomorrow. Electric cars are coming, whether consumer demand is there or not. And automakers will have to figure out where they stand.

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