Volvo, Fiat and Mercedes Benz: three very different motoring brands, with one thing in common. They each announced this year that they will only make electric vehicles from 2030 onwards.
Many more automakers are following suit, too. Which is great news, since the UK will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in that same year.
Does this spell the end of engines? Will petrol stations up and down the land be out of business? Will all the environmental issues and air pollution go away on January 1st, 2030? And will your local mechanic be replaced by a robot?
Well… Not quite. Even with a 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, there’s still the second hand market and legacy vehicles to think about – and considering that a good diesel engine, when given a regular car service and well taken care of, can run for 150,000 miles or more – it’ll be many decades before the humble internal combustion engine is truly
phased out. And even then, it probably never will be fully out of the picture. Here’s why.
JUST LIKE THE AGE OF STEAM…
The case in point is steam power. By today’s standards, this obsolete technology is dirty, expensive, unreliable and finicky. But it’s undeniably fascinating to generations young and old. There’s something special about steam power – maybe it’s been romanticised by film and books – but there’s definitely something about it. That’s why steam railways still operate
all over the world: the nostalgia, the noise, the power, the ceremony, the brilliant engineering that the railways ushered in… And the same goes for cars. One day, we’ll be looking at them in the exact same way – in the case of classic cars, we already are.
Even the most mundane of modern family cars is an absolute miracle of engineering. We can’t see it now, because they seem so boring and normal to us – but one day, people will look back on them and think “I can’t believe everyone used to drive around in those!”
In the future, a select handful of the cars that we consider plain old boring today will be classics. There’ll still be a space for them – days out devoted to them, roads where they can be driven for recreation – just like the old steam railways that still run today. And it’ll endure, just as the fascination with steam power has, far beyond the generations that remember the
age of internal combustion engines.
But that mentality won’t kick in on New Year’s Day 2030. It could be another two or three decades before seeing a petrol or diesel car on the road is a rare and special sight to behold.
TRANSITIONS TAKE TIME
Diesel engines didn’t replace steam overnight; the transition took decades. It’ll be the same for the transition between ICE cars and electric ones. The fact is, diesel cars can have an excellent lifespan if a proper car service is carried out regularly, and they will continue to run long after the 2030 EV deadline.
It’s still a novelty to see a Tesla, Honda E, Renault Zoe or Nissan Leaf out on the road – even after decades of EV sales and a surge in demand for EVs in recent years. And it’ll be a long time before they become the normal cars, and the fuel-burning ones are the novelties.
Then, there’s infrastructure. Barring the fuel shortages that hit the UK in 2021, petrol and diesel are plentiful, quick and easy to fill a car up with, and can be accessed just about anywhere. EV charging points on the other hand are less common and very slow to fill up a battery in comparison – and if you live in a house with on street parking only, you can’t install your own charging point at home. These barriers of infrastructure might take decades to resolve.
Finally, there’s the fact that not everyone can afford a new EV – or even a used one. The second hand electric car market is far from mature, and resale values aren’t that far off buying new. For those without the funds, cars with engines will be the only choice.
And as long as cars with engines are around, your local garage will be there to perform your annual car service, MOT test, and to help you with everything you need to get around. Plus – we’ll adapt to the new; instead of engines and cambelts, we’ll be fixing brushless electric motors and replacing touch screen panels.
But will 2030 be the end of the engine? No – far from it. If anything, the engine will become more revered than ever.