Signs of the Times: Are Gas Engines Going, Going…?

Steam was the key to the engines of the first self-powered road vehicles (credit Frenchman Nicolas Joseph Cugnot with “first honors” in 1769). Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz among others made their own important contributions to the development of successful, practical gasoline-powered vehicles that (along with Diesel-powered engines) gave us the age of modern cars and modern driving.

Those technologies and those fuels have dominated the transportation industry for decades and generations.

But significant shifts and cracks in that dominance are appearing.

Honda earth dreams

Item: Tesla, the (premium-priced) all-electric car company, is readying release of its “most affordable car yet”–the $35,000 Model 3 that seats 5, speeds from zero to 60 in under six seconds, and scores 215 miles per charge.

Item:  In what’s probably the boldest move towards electrification by a major automaker, Volvo announced all its new models starting in 2019 would be either fully electric or hybrid, a decision that essentially ends Volvo’s production of internal combustion-only engines for new models.

(It was reported that older Volvo models still in production by 2019 and beyond will have the option to be produced as strictly gas engines.) “This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo Car Group’s President and CEO.  “We are convinced that the future of Volvo is electric. This is about the customer,” he said, adding, “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.”

Item:  In the midst of the contentious Paris Climate Accord, France says (in an announcement a day after Volvo’s news) it’s preparing to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040 as a way of reaching its emissions targets under the agreement.

Nicolas Hulot, the Ecology Minister under new French President Emmanuel Macron, called the plan a “veritable revolution.”

France is the leading manufacturer of electric vehicles sold in Europe, although hybrids and electrics represent only 3.6 percent of new cars registered in Western Europe in 2016.

Item:  WardsAuto named three electrified drivetrains to its (annual) list of of “Ten Best Engines for 2017”

Chevrolet Volt chrome cluster bowtiefrom among 40 tested vehicles (they are: Honda’s 2.0-liter I4 + Hybrid-Electric Powertrain; 

Honda Accord HEVthe Chrysler 3.6-liter V6 + Hybrid-Electric Powertrain, and Chevrolet’s 1.5-liter I4 + Electric Powertrain).

America-based Ward’s has covered the automotive industry for more than 80 years with news and multi-platform data and insights.

“Automakers see downsizing, turbocharging and electrification as key strategies for delivering no-compromise powertrains that also are fuel efficient, and this year’s list clearly affirms that strategy,” says WardsAuto Senior Content Director Drew Winter.

Questions and challenges–technological, economic, corporate and political among them–still loom and continue to impact the realities of a global changeover to all-electric driving.  But with experts like Bloomberg predicting by 2022 (yes, only five years from now!) electric vehicles will cost the same as their internal-combustion counterparts–what they call “the point of liftoff for sales”–one day very soon will see vehicles and batteries that will fundamentally change our world of driving.

 

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