GM commits to more efficient, electric, and autonomous cars


2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016

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General Motors will focus more heavily on electrified cars and alternatives to traditional car ownership to meet anticipated future regulations and predicted consumer trends.

The Detroit automaker won't achieve its goal of putting 500,000 electrified vehicles on U.S. roads by next year, it said, but is still committed to larger volumes.

It also plans to double the number of models it offers that are EPA-rated at 40 mpg highway or more by next year.

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Released last month, GM's annual Sustainability Report for 2015 claims the company is already ahead of schedule in meeting the latter goal.

The carmaker blames low gas prices and "increased saturation of electric model offerings in the marketplace," as reasons why it couldn't meet its 2017 electrified-vehicle goal, according to The Detroit News.

However, GM sees low U.S. gas prices as a "temporary phenomenon," and must still consider high gas prices in Europe and China, David Tulauskas—the carmaker's director of sustainability—told the paper in an interview last month.

2017 Chevrolet Volt

2017 Chevrolet Volt

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Consequently, GM plans to add more hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars to its lineup.

The company said it had 196,861 hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery-electric cars on U.S. roads in 2015, up from 180,834 in 2014, and 153,034 in 2013.

That count includes GM vehicles dating back to the 2010 model year, encompassing everything from mild hybrids to all-electric cars.

ALSO SEE: Can Malibu Hybrid volume cut costs, kickstart sales for Chevy Volt?

That number recently got a shot in the arm with the launch of the second-generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt and the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid midsize sedan.

Later this year, GM plans to launch the 200-mile 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, along with the lower-volume 2017 Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid.

Besides adding new models, GM is also experimenting with new ways to give consumers access to them.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid launch - 2015 New York Auto Show

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid launch - 2015 New York Auto Show

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The company is planning multiple carsharing and ridesharing services under its Maven brand.

Maven already operates carsharing services on a limited basis in New York City, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and will expand to Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. by the end of the year.

MORE: Chevy Bolt EV electric car to be GM-Lyft self-driving car testbed

GM also launched a short-term rental program for Chicago Lyft drivers in March, one of the first visible products of a relationship with the ridesharing company.

In addition an investment in Lyft, GM also recently acquired Cruise Automation, a developer of autonomous-driving technology.

The move follows a previous announcement that GM would test autonomous Chevy Volts in a ridesharing service within its sprawling Warren Technical Center complex in Michigan.

Companies like Uber and BMW already believe the combination of self-driving cars and ridesharing could have a major impact on traditional car ownership.

So while GM may need to electrify more of its cars to meet stricter fuel-economy standards, it must also plan for some of them to be autonomous as it prepares for that possible scenario as well.

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