Over the next five years, GM says it will exponentially increase sales of all electric vehicles and/or hybrids, putting 500,00 such vehicles on the road.

According to the Detroit Free Press, that statement provides a benchmark with which to measure GM’s alternative powertrain progress over the next half decade. The company says the Chevrolet Volt would play a key role in hitting the electrification targets. The Volt’s lithium-ion battery pack allows it to travel 38 miles on a single charge of electricity before a gasoline engine kicks in.

However, GM sold 19,309 Volts in the first 10 months of the year, putting the company on track to come close to 25,000 units in 2012. And it will have to multiply that rate to reach its goals by 2017. What magic do you suppose GM has up its sleeve?

For starters, it looks like GM is expanding the accepted definition of "electric vehicles". In the 500,000 figure, GM is counting vehicles that integrate eAssist, a mild-hybrid system that boosts fuel economy with stop-start capability, regenerative braking and an electric motor. GM said it would sell more than 50,000 vehicles with electrification technology in 2012.

Additionally, in 2013 the company plans to unveil the Cadillac ELR, a luxury electric coupe based on the Volt powertrain. And GM plans to reveal the production version of the Chevrolet Spark EV at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this month. The Spark EV will also go on sale in some markets in 2013.

GM said plug-in electric vehicles are its key electrification focus. “The plug-in offers a unique opportunity to change the way people commute,” Mary Barra, senior vice president of global product development, said at an event in San Francisco.

However, nobody is talking about electric vehicles making it on a level playing field; providing affordable EV options for consumers. The chasm between affordable conventional cars and unaffordable EVs remains unchanged.