Shahzad Sheikh takes the time to ponder what is around the corner for the cars we love.
During my recent stint as host of the Tech Hub at the British Motor Show, one of the sessions we ran was ‘Is it the end of ICE?’. Not referring to the frozen crystal cubes dropped into a glass of some liquid refreshment, but the internal combustion engine of course.
With the advent of the EV revolution giving the automotive industry something of a massive electric shock, there’s no question that they’re quiet, quick and quite good at what they do, especially in urban settings. They’re better for breathable air too.
So, is it game-over for EVs? Let’s not hit the panic button on our beloved internal combustion engines just yet. The rumour mill has been churning out predictions of their imminent demise faster than a souped-up drag racer, but I’m here to pump the brakes on the hype.
Sure, electric vehicles are the shiny new toys on the block, and governments around the globe are waving the green flag, offering incentives and charging stations faster than a Formula 1 pit stop.
However, if we take a step back and rev up our logic engines for a minute, we realise that we’re talking about a world where petrol, diesel and the internal combustion engines have been keeping us on the move, and carved out their place in the heart and soul of our automotive culture, for about 130 years!
Our infrastructure and our very lives have come to depend on them, and it’s not so simple to cleanly extricate our interconnectivity with the internal combustion engine.
EV sales maybe growing – around a million vehicles on the UK’s roads are now electrified. But our total vehicle population is about 38 million. A typical ‘good’ sales year for vehicles in the UK, is around a million vehicles a year. At that rate, we’re looking at 37 years to replace all our current ICE vehicles – that takes us to 2060! That’s three decades after the 2030 deadline set by the UK to stop sales of new petrol and diesel cars.
Petrol cars are still the biggest selling, despite the growth in EV sales, and it’s not surprising when you realise how versatile they are. The fact is that EVs are still not ideal for long distance travelling, and have struggled when it comes to freight transport and road haulage.
Let’s not forget the weekend warriors heading off-road, or who tow their boats, trailers, and dreams behind them. The military could not fight with EV tanks and heavy armoured vehicles. The emergency services still need the dependability of ICE. And the construction industry – especially remote construction or heavy-duty activity such as mining, finds it simply unviable to use electric vehicles.
Other forms of transport such as aviation and shipping also present extreme challenges, but let’s stick with road transport for this discourse.
EVs are getting there, but right now, they’re like the new kid in the hood, still trying to fit in. Meanwhile ICE engines have been towing, hauling, and conquering the world’s highways and byways for decades. They’re like the seasoned pros who’ve seen it all and done it all – and they’re not retiring anytime soon.
I’m all for embracing innovation, change and new technology. And EVs are certainly the talk of the tech town, but ICE vehicles are still the backbone of our automotive landscape, plus the numbers above prove that the end of ICE is simply not feasible for at least another generation.
Which is good news, because I l adore the roar of a petrol engine, the smell of burnt rubber on a summer day, and the thrill of shifting gears like a symphony conductor. Don’t forget the countless classic cars that enthusiasts have lovingly restored and preserved over the years – can you imagine a world without the growl of a vintage muscle car?
There is no question that electric vehicles are a crucial part of our transport future, but it’s definitely too early to be writing off the internal combustion engine.
Instead of picking a side; ranting with revs or plugging in the bandwagon, we should recognise that roads of the future, will be like the roads of today – a mix of whirring electrons and thundering pistons. And they’ll be better for it.