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Are Internal Combustion Engines Dying?

cartoon of people looking at three cars with their hoods open, showing their engines

The automobile industry is going through drastic changes, with countless bold ideas disrupting it every day. Since time immemorial, big names like Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, and Maserati all have their own lines of astonishing engines and in many cases, it is these engines that encouraged car enthusiasts to pick a certain brand.

However, electric motors will likely not be made by these same car manufacturers. So, what will define the brands in the future? Will any consumer really care who is manufacturing the electric motor like they do the combustible engine?

Ciao, Combustible!

car engine,combustion engine,combustion engine history,electric engine history,electric car sales

internal combustion engine history vs electric engine history infographic

Countries like India, the United Kingdom, Norway, and France are just a few countries that already decided on getting rid of gas and diesel cars in favor of vehicles using clean energy. The UK, for example, is banning sales of new cars using gasoline or diesel starting in 2040, with a target of having zero emissions by 2050.

France is doing the same, ending sales of gasoline and diesel cars by 2040. India has a more challenging target, as they want all vehicles to be electric-powered by 2030. Norway is on a similar path, as all new passenger vehicles sold starting 2025 are zero-emission. They have been leading the electric motor disruption – 40% of cars sold last year in Norway were either electric or hybrid vehicles.

At least 10 other countries are already going through similar changes, based on data released by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

There are already official targets for electric car sales for Austria, China, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Korea the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. While the United States does not have a federal policy in place yet, there are at least eight states forging their own goals.

Interestingly, China is the largest electric car market. They have more cars than any other country in the world, and today account for over 40% of electric cars. According to additional information from the IEA, China has more than double the number of electric cars sold compared to that of the US.

What are the advantages of an electric motor?

In 2017, a Tesla Model S P100 went from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in 2.27 seconds, the first time a production car tested by Motor Trend has ever cracked the 2.3 second mark—and faster than super cars with price tags nearly eight times higher. This pushed the Tesla ahead of the 2017 Porsche 911 Turbo S, which was previously the quickest vehicle.

It also should be noted that the Tesla had a base price of $135,700 ahead of the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder, which have base prices of $1.5M and $845K respectively.

So how does a heavy passenger sedan capable of seating seven people blow away all but the most exotic of modern sports cars? As long as an electric motor is turning, it’s producing all of the torque it can. That means electric cars generally accelerate away from a stop more quickly than comparable gasoline cars, which have to rev up to reach their power curves.

This also means electric cars don’t need multi-gear transmissions, because all of the power is available all of the time. This makes for greater efficiency, because transmissions act as a drag on the drivetrain, etc.. However, gas engines do still perform better at very high speeds.

The lack of a transmission, exhaust, extensive lubrication system, and other addenda that come with internal-combustion engines make electric powertrains simpler. That means there’s less that can break and, fewer items that need regular servicing.

What Does It Mean for Engine Makers?

For years, combustion engines ruled, defining vehicle brands as what they are today. People, especially car lovers, covet certain brands of vehicles based on what is under the hood. Most automakers own the engines their cars use, for good reason.

Elevtric Vehicles Vs Combustion Vehicles

Chrysler’s Dodge has the Hemi and Viper engines, Porsche has the eponymous Porsche engines, Ferrari has their own engines including the Ferrari-Maserati family of petrol engines they coproduced with Maserati, BMW created its “Ultimate Driving Machine,” the classic Ford Mustang has its own engines as well, just to name a few.

Just think about it: what if a Lamborghini ran using a Honda engine? Or what if a BMW used a Toyota engine? Most likely, they’ll work, but not as well as they were envisioned to. But now, with many countries taking the bold step of switching to electric (or at least, hybrid), what does this mean for the automobile industry?

The electric engine will most likely be made by original manufacturers (also known as original equipment manufacturers or OEMs). Regardless of their power source, these OEM’d electric engines will most likely have similar performance compared to their combustible counterparts.

So, if what’s under the hood is no longer the defining element of a vehicle, what then? Do car manufacturers focus more on the interiors and the exterior designs? Do they switch from manufacturers to mobility providers? And if so, it can create a bold impact for car lovers everywhere – the transition from gas to electricity means a reevaluation of what to love or look forward to in a car.

For instance, certain people who love cars also love the sound a vehicle makes when it runs on a combustible engine. The whirr is a great and necessary noise for these people, and many would agree that an engine that’s too quiet isn’t really attractive (in the same way harsh noises turn them off).

Brett Smith, an assistant director of manufacturing, engineering, and technology at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), has a theory about it. “It’s no longer sound or the [makeup of the] valve train,” he said. “It’s a very different principle,” Smith continued, saying that instead of the physical engine, an electric system’s software is the new area automakers can focus on to define a vehicle’s uniqueness and character.

Although majority of electric cars are sold in only 10 countries today (Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands the UK, the US, and Sweden), it may take a while but the road to electric is clear and the Bold Impact of this technology is just starting to unfold.

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