General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced her company will expand production of its Chevrolet Bolt electric car, during a speech plotting GM's path to a zero-emissions future at one of the biggest energy conferences of the year.
Barra's address came on the heels of a day focused on the viability of oil at the annual CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston, where many energy executives challenged the notion that alternative fuels and electric vehicles will soon displace the internal combustion engine.
On Monday, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told CNBC it would take "generations" for a transformation toward electric vehicles in the transportation industry to take place.
"I think it's going to happen more quickly than decades," Barra told CNBC in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.
"As more and more people recognize that we have the right range, understand that we have a charging infrastructure so they don't think you're going to be stranded, I think you're going to see EV adoption continue," the GM CEO said.
GM will increase production of the Chevrolet Bolt later this year at its Orion Assembly plant near Detroit to meet growing demand around the world for the all-electric model, Barra announced on Wednesday.
Barra said the scale of the production increase was yet to be determined, but the ramp-up would create new jobs at the plant.
In a speech, Barra called on the energy industry and other stakeholders to partner with GM to expand the U.S. network of charging stations. She said the infrastructure would boost customers' confidence that they can use their electric vehicles anywhere and anytime.
"You've got to have good consumer confidence that they're going to be able to drive their vehicles and it's going to support their daily lives and their hectic life," she said. "We see a role in investing, in partnering and making sure that that customer need is fulfilled," Barra added. She noted that GM is working on some partnerships, but did not have anything to announce yet.
The GM CEO also implored the power sector to continue deploying renewable energy generation, saying it would entice environmentally conscious drivers off the sidelines by lowering the carbon footprint of electric vehicles.
The United States still draws roughly 30 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, so many plug-ins still rely on a major contributor to global warming to charge up.
Barra also said Congress should expand tax credits for electric vehicles.
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