China’s decision late last year to require that most of the vehicles sold there be electric by 2035 is also crucial, as GM sells more cars in that country than in the US through its joint ventures. Great Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands have announced that they will ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles from 2030.

GM has been talking about moving to zero-emission vehicles for about two years. In March last year, the modular battery technology was introduced, with which costs are to be reduced. A few months later, GM said it could reach a point where electric vehicles won’t cost more than gasoline-powered vehicles faster than previously expected.

Ms. Barra received support and input from an unexpected source – the Environmental Defense Fund, which had criticized GM in the past. The CEO shared a barbecue dinner with the group’s president, Fred Krupp, at a conference in 2015. Until last fall, they were in regular contact by phone and email.

“We were both optimistic that we could achieve common ground,” said Krupp.

In October, GM unveiled an electric Hummer pickup truck that had enough orders in one day to accommodate all of the trucks GM wanted to manufacture in the first year of the truck.

“That was another turning point,” said Parker, the chief sustainability officer. “It showed that consumers are really excited about owning electric vehicles.”

Just a few weeks later, Mr Biden was elected President-elect. And in December, GM met with its transition team, Parker said. “Our vision of an emission-free future fits very well with your vision and goals.”

At the same time, GM signed a pledge known as the Business Ambition for 1.5 Degrees to fight global warming. In early January, the company set the expected date for the electrical transition to be 2035, Parker said. On January 12th, Ms. Barra appeared at the Consumer Electronics Show explaining GM’s vision for a zero-exhaust future, but did not provide an exact date.