General Motors sets goal to sell 500,000 electric vehicles by 2017

General Motors Co. plans to sell 500,000 electric cars a year by 2017.

GM will plan to meet that worldwide electrified-vehicle goal through a variety of technology including plug-in electrics, pure electrics and hybrids that use the company’s eAssist technology, said Mary Barra, GM’s senior vice president of global product development. She spoke via satellite feed from Detroit to media gathered at GM’s Electrification Experience press event here.

The company is on track to sell more than 50,000 vehicles equipped with the company’s electrification technologies in the U.S. this year, Barra said.

Barra said GM over the past few months has been working to better define its advanced technology strategy including electrification. She said plug-in technology will play a bigger role in the future.

GM engineers are working on the next-generation propulsion technology that powers the Volt and will power the Cadillac ELR to improve the “system’s value and efficiency in the not too distant future,” Barra said.

“In fact, we’re looking at new ways we can use EREV (extended-range electric vehicle) technologies to provide more innovative options to our customers,” she said.

Barra said the company wants to make educated bets on which technologies create value for customers and shareholders.

“We’ve narrowed our core focus to a set of technologies that will help us best meet long-term customer demand with the best, most fun to drive, most cost effective solutions for educing fuel consumption,” Barra said.

GM launched the plug-in Chevrolet Volt in late 2010. Sales started off slow but this year have been gaining. The Volt set a record in October, selling nearly 3,000 units. For the year through October, GM has sold more than 19,000 Volts.

The company also is rolling out a new Chevy Spark Battery Electric Vehicle next year and has announced plans to build a new plug-in Cadillac ELR coupe with the same technology that powers the Volt.

Barra also said its eAssist technology, which includes a small electric motor and lithium-ion battery to help improve fuel economy by as much as 25 percent, is part of its electrification strategy going forward.

GM said it sold more than 26,000 vehicles equipped with eAssist through October and the company plans for eAssist technology to be on “hundred of thousands” of vehicles annually by 2017, Barra said.

Barra declined to provide specific sales goals the company has for sales of the different types of electrified cars.