It was terrible news for thousands of American workers.

General Motors announced last week it was shuttering several plants and retooling its workforce. It’s ending the production of several sedans, turning its focus to hatchbacks and trucks.

The company said the moves will save it $6 billion annually by 2020.

“The actions we are taking today continue our transformation to be highly agile, resilient and profitable, while giving us the flexibility to invest in the future,” GM CEO Mary Barra said in a news release.

One of those investments will be self-driving electric vehicles. Tesla is the market leader, but several large companies are making headway in the sector. Volkswagen recently said it was looking to open a new electric car facility in the United States.

At the local level, Xcel Energy announced Thursday it was partnering with Eau Claire, Menomonie, La Crosse, Mayo Health Systems, UW-Stout and Eau Claire and St. Croix counties “in a study that will help determine if any of their current fleet vehicles could be replaced with electric vehicles.”

Xcel will work with FleetCarma to install devices on selected fleet vehicles from each organization that will monitor how the vehicles are being used, mileage traveled, fuel efficiency and idling time. The results will determine whether they would be a good candidate for being replaced by an electric vehicle.

“Many customers are looking at innovative ways to reduce costs, meet sustainability goals and prepare for the future,” said Mark Stoering, president of Xcel Energy-Wisconsin/Michigan, in a news release. “Electric vehicles can provide a great opportunity for communities and companies to reduce carbon emissions and save on fuel and other costs.”

Added Frank Draxler, Eau Claire County purchasing director: “Eau Claire County is committed to protecting our environment and saving money. We hope that this project can show us a way to do both.”

As do we.

Xcel references a study that determined the average electric car has 54 percent less lifetime carbon emissions than a traditional vehicle.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s website says electric vehicles “not only support the U.S. economy but help diversify the U.S. transportation fleet and reduce the impact of international supply disruptions. All of this adds to our nation’s energy security.”

If there is a positive to come out of GM’s restructuring, it’s the opportunity to realize a tagline the company recently adopted: “Zero Crashes, Zero Emissions, Zero Congestion.”

Worthy goals, to be sure.

Liam Marlaire, assistant editor