Internal Combustion Engines: The End is Near

When we first heard of the first hybrids and all-electric vehicles, I don’t think many of us thought of what that meant for our loveable, loud, smoke-spewing vehicles that we all grew up with. While the modern cars that we know today are only just over a century old, the technology has already started meeting its demise. With things like the Paris Climate Accord requiring countries to take steps to combat the ever-increasing greenhouse emissions, we are starting to see governments and car manufacturers make plans for the future. As I mentioned in my previous posts, many forms of racing have already adopted the hybrid concept and have made tremendous strides in the efficiency of these systems. This has opened up a large competition amongst car manufacturers, which ultimately ends up in their car fleets for the general public.

The increase in interest in battery technologies is leading the way for the future of car manufacturing. Formula E just ended their fourth season and are ready to begin their fifth with their new Gen2 car, which finally offers teams the ability to run a full race distance without having to change cars halfway through the race. The goal of this racing series is to help speed up the development of battery and energy deployment technology, and in only four years we are seeing that the development rate really is tremendous. When the series first started, the cars used 190kW batteries. The power has now increased to 250kW which is approximately a 30% increase. While it is understood that these cars are not the fastest in the world, the series offers good competition but more importantly, a good look at the future of the auto industry and how quickly manufacturers are tackling those shortcomings.

I think the biggest reason for the change, however, is being dictated by what governments are doing to meet their goals with respect to the Paris agreement. With the idea that this agreement will help reduce global emissions to 56 gigatons, rather than staying on the current trend that would increase emissions to 69 gigatons by 2030. The most ambitious efforts are being put forth by India and Norway, who will end gas and diesel car sales by 2030 and 2025, respectively. Norway seems to be well on its way to change how it’s citizens think about buying new cars, with about 40% of all cars sold last year in the country were electric or hybrids. This is a huge undertaking for other countries, considering that countries like France only have about 4% share of electric vehicles on its roads today. Another example is China saying that by 2020 it wants to have 5 million electric cars on their roads, except that only 1% (753,000) of the 28 million cars sold last year were electric, showing that it has some work to do.

If countries really want to influence the market and help that shift, they will likely need to use some tax incentives and/or regulations (free parking, carpool lane use, etc.) that encourage the citizens to make the switch to electric cars, not to mention that it needs the infrastructure (charging stations) to be able to make the switch to electric vehicles worth the move. It has been shown that when governments take away incentives, customers are less likely to purchase electric vehicles. It is understandable to think that if someone wants a specific type of car, then why should they be helped by the government to make that purchase? But that’s another discussion alone and I believe that if the market is to be transformed, then it needs to be helped along by the governments that are looking for this change. I’ve already accepted the fact that my next vehicle purchase is likely to be in that direction, so how do you feel about the changes that are to come regarding which vehicle you decide to purchase next? Wouldn’t you agree that government incentives would help you make that transition a little easier? Or do you feel that you’re better off sticking to gas vehicles until there is no other choice?

- Victor Ceballos