Where there’s a Will, there’s a Norway

Whether you were there for the football, the drama, or just the halftime show, this Super Bowl weekend certainly didn’t disappoint. Rival ads from GM and Audi stirred up an (unexpected?) US-Norway electric vehicle (EV) feud. GM’s ad featured Will Ferrell’s rage-fueled cross-Atlantic EV journey to yell at Norway for leading the world in per capita vehicle ownership. In response, Audi Norway retorted with its own ad starring familiar Game of Thrones face, Kristofer Hivju.

While advertising is only one among several factors influencing EV adoption, we can see shifting trends in how consumers perceive EVs and where the automotive industry is going in how they market their vehicles – as we wrote last year. But even as the transportation sector continues to be the top source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, automakers are establishing greater momentum toward expanding EV production and cutting emissions from their factories and products. Two weeks ago, GM announced a plan to sell only zero-emission models by 2035, and to make its global models and operations carbon neutral by 2040. Similarly, over the summer, Ford announced its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Other companies like Toyota and Volkswagen (Audi’s parent company) have pledged similar goals. Toyota’s Environmental Challenge 2050 calls for a 90 percent reduction in emissions from new vehicles by 2050, and the company has committed to offering an electrified version of each of its vehicles by 2025. Volkswagen is committed to making its vehicles and production carbon-neutral by 2050, with a plan to sell approximately 22 million EVs worldwide by 2028.

In recent years, we’ve seen strong investment in EV technology and charging infrastructure among US automakers, although some concerns remain regarding the depth of these commitments. GM – as Will Ferrell points out– has invested heavily in its new Ultium battery technology, and plans to expand its EV lineup to 30 models by 2025. The company also plans to partner with EVGo to install an additional 2,700 renewable energy-powered fast chargers across the U.S. in the next five years. Ford is making strides as well, investing more than $11.5 billion in EVs through 2022, and plans to release zero-emission versions of some of its most popular internal combustion vehicles. They are also partnering with Electrify America to provide Ford drivers access to Electrify America’s charging network.

However, EV momentum isn’t just limited to the private sector. Recently, state and federal policy has been driving forward to encourage EV uptake and expand public access to charging. Late in 2020, California issued a requirement that all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia signed a memorandum of understanding last summer with the goal of making all new medium- and heavy-duty truck sales zero-emission vehicles by 2050. And, most recently, President Biden signed executive orders within a week of his inauguration that included provisions to make all federally-owned vehicles zero-emission – including US Postal Service vehicles and to revisit the less ambitious vehicle standards set by the prior administration.

With the new administration and Congress, the federal government is beginning to turn to the process of enacting more ambitious, durable climate policies to put the United States on the path to net-zero emissions by 2050. Last week, we released a comprehensive set of climate policy priorities, including several recommendations to ensure that by 2050, all light-duty vehicles on the road are zero-emission vehicles. First and foremost, the federal government should put in place performance standards that assure all vehicles “on the road” are zero emitting by 2050. These standards provide the credibility framework for the industry to work in. The recommendations also include measures to accelerate the market for EVs by increasing federal procurement of zero-emission vehicles, expanding and reforming the existing EV tax credit, and providing higher incentives for medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles. Additionally, it’s critical to support state and local governments in accelerating fast charging and fueling infrastructure deployment and working with them on their own plans for emissions standards to assure a coordinated approach for manufacturers to plan with certainty.

It’s uncertain when Will Ferrell will be able to find Norway, but automakers are certainly putting the pedal to the metal on achieving zero-emissions from transportation by 2050. Track our progress in our weekly EV newsletter by signing up here.