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Why the Internal Combustion Engine Is the Future Posts: 10,125
edited September 2014 in General

imageWhy the Internal Combustion Engine Is the Future

Internal combustion engines have a long future, despite the prominence of battery electric vehicles (EVs).

Read the full story here



  • cheaf33cheaf33 Posts: 1
    lol kind of analysis you would expect from automobile journalist
  • smihalsmihal Posts: 1
    Is this a joke? By 2040 1% of new vehicle sales will be electric? Who came up with these estimates? There will be so many advances in the next 25 years that there is no way this is accurate. This reads like a propaganda piece written by the oil industry.
  • lmbvettelmbvette South FloridaPosts: 93
    Did I just login to or something?

    I know JKav is the resident "automobile purist" on staff, so I understand why he was tasked with writing this article, because it is, afterall, how he feels. I get it.

    With that said, there is one very glaring omission in the article, the Chevrolet Volt. It has all of the benefits of the good 'ol ICE and all the benefits of the dreaded EV. This is why GM refers to it as an EREV, or an Extended Range Electric Vehicle. Why didn't the author mention the Volt?

    The Volt's features counter every single critique in the article.

    Oh, and countering the EV's environment friendliness with the argument that when they are manufactured they create pollution, and use dirty electricity from fossil fuel plants, etc. They aren't so "green". WAAAAAH!!!

    My answer to those people is that I don't give a $hit about being green. I know my money is no longer going to some oil company executive's pocket (in who knows what country). Money is the only "green" that matters to me, it is the green I no longer spend at gas stations.

    Come on JKav and Edmunds, you are better than this.
    Don't worry about what other people think. Drive what makes you happy.
  • quadricyclequadricycle Posts: 827
    The future, I'm sorry to say, is not with automobiles as personal transportation. The sheer number of them on the road simply overpowers most solutions... We're talking about fuel efficiency and pollution, but what about the ever increasing cost of highways, and traffic in the future? I speculate that we'll start seeing less and less automobiles in urban landscapes, to be replaced with truly effective public transportation. Out in the country I'd like to see the opposite of the school merging that we're seeing, and go back to small towns where everything is huddled together instead of driving half an hour for groceries, work, or school. Commercially, the trucking network will have to be replaced with something that's more efficient, although I'm not qualified to say how. Ideally, all this will free up the roads for those who want and enjoy driving, even if it will be pretty expensive to do so.
  • duck87duck87 Posts: 649
    I thought this piece was pretty balanced for the most part; although take note that the cradle to grave analysis for pure electric vehicles is a bit difficult to discern because of the limited recycling options currently available for vehicle batteries (these will pick up in the future obviously).

    @quadricycle: I think public transit in America is pretty woefully underdeveloped, although some of the most major metro cities are OK in this regard for local transit. I still think cars will be an important factor in the future, although for obvious reasons I hope that the number of drivers diminishes in the future (especially the most horrible and distracted drivers). There's no point bringing infrastructure like roads into the discussion- world class countries like Japan and Germany maintain great roads AND public transit networks, they're not mutually exclusive. With 20% of traffic on the road comprising of commercial trucks, you will never get rid of them, they are the economic backbone! However, there is obviously room to improve on their 5.5 mpg fuel economy...

    @lmbvette: I think the Volt might be lumped under the general "hybrid" tagline.

    @smihal: It's pretty common sense to think that as battery tech gets better, we'll be more likely to see better hybrids rather than proliferation of electric vehicles, at least at first. Keep in mind that there was one point in history when electric vehicles were the choice over petrol vehicles... and that was at the turn of the (20th) century. Over the past 100 years the evolution of batteries has been slower than that of ICEs, although there's much more interesting nowadays in accelerating that. I'm not sure about the 1% figure either, but keep in mind that diesels and hybrids now have about a 3% marketshare and that's probably going to grow to 30% or higher by 2040 (making it less worthwhile to get a pure EV).
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Battery swaps, like big forklifts currently use, would eliminate the refueling problem. That wouldn't be much different than picking up a new propane tank for your home BBQ grill now. Not many folks refill their own 40 pound tanks anymore. Current gas stations could just add the infrastructure, but it would require standardization.
  • bankerdannybankerdanny Posts: 1,021
    Germany and Japan are a fraction of the size of the US. Germany has about 400k miles of roads, the US has 3.9 MILLION. Japan has more than Germany, 744k, but that is still less than 20% of the amount of roads we have.

    Personally I think that Hydrogen technology like the Honda Clarity should be getting much more money and attention. It is just as clean as battery electric, but without the range issues. It would require creation of a fueling station infrastructure, but so will creating a national network of electric stations like the ones for the Tesla. But unlike the Tesla, the Clarity can be refueled in a matter of 5-6 minutes, not 90.

    Plus, a mostly electric powered transportation system will more power generation capacity than we have now and a vastly improved power grid (although that is necessary anyway). Whereas a hydrogen plants could be located in area's where there is already ample power generating capacity and/or where there is ample sunlight and run via solar.

    I really don't understand why the technology gets so little press.
  • duck87duck87 Posts: 649
    @bankerdanny: Why yes, the US is much larger than many other countries, in size and population. But that shouldn't be used as an excuse for lack of basic maintenance on roads, bridges and other infrastructure. If the US cannot be expected to even maintain
  • jederinojederino Posts: 0
    I like the article. Predicting to 2040 may be hazardous, but the environmental hurdles of EVs is without question. They are a promise that has yet to deliver. Rare earths and electricity generation are big obstacles. I'm excited about EVs, but the challenges are there to be solved.
  • yamahr1yamahr1 Posts: 9
    Predictions like these are only worth so much. There might not only be disruptive technologies, like a practical and cheap ultra-capacitor, there could also be disruptive global events, such as those that would cause a sharp rise in gasoline prices or obviously severe effects of climate change that make people rethink their priorities.

    Either way, the nearly ideal solution already exists in the form of Voltec, available in the current Volt and 2014 Cadillac ELR. These cars allow most people to do all their regular daily driving on electricity, with the comforting backup and unlimited range of gasoline power when required. Other than initial purchase cost, there is no major downside to Voltec and some significant upsides, like their smooth and quiet operation and very low operating costs. It will be interesting to see to what degree GM can narrow the cost gap when Volt 2.0 debuts in a couple of years.

    My own prediction is that by 2030 at least half of all passenger vehicles sold will have some form of electrification, from light hybridization to all out EV.
  • barbarosbarbaros Posts: 1
    Here is my take on how EVs may be able to change the tide...they should be working on interchangeable batteries. So, when the car goes to a charging station, you can just swap batteries.. just like you swap batteries in a point and shoot camera (I Know it is outdated)

    This potentially can create new markets, and economies:

    1. The charging companies can make claims such as our batteries lasts longer between swaps, etc. Hence, there could potentially be a research driven market, resulting in faster results and improvements (remember how fast CPUs improved over the years)
    2. You can solve the current waiting for a charge problem. Obviously, you would just swap. When competing companies produce longer lasting batteries, they would attract more customers to their stations, and when they can produce faster charging ones, they can improve their bottom lines..

    3. As a consumer, you can buy the newest and greatest battery, or you can keep going for a swap, or some combination.

    4. This can also solve EV owners' potential future problem of "What is going to happen to my car, when it longer holds a charge?", etc.

    BTW, how come there isn't enough vehicles with Diesel and Battery combinations.. The technology has been around at least since World War 2 (that is more than 70 years). FYI, this is submarines ran in WW2
  • 06sti06sti Posts: 17
    At this particular moment in time, a small turbodiesel is the most efficient and cost-effective engine. Until technology advances, our focus should be on smaller, lighter vehicles. We haven't gotten over our fascination with SUVs yet though, so the point is moot.
  • windsor5windsor5 Posts: 4
    I have seen this piece spouted before. the basis for this article is the presupposition that there can be no developments in the area of battery technology and a lot of the arguments about charging stations are the same as before there was high ways and gas pumps. these things didn't magically appear....
  • I agree with this article. There is simply nothing that has the same energy density that gasoline has. This is why no one has yet to come up with a viable replacement in the last 100 years.

    I am all in favor of R&D, and always try to find something better. If/when something better than gasoline comes along, i'll be one of the first in line.

    As to the Volt comment below: the Volt is hybrid- fundamentally no different than the Prius (though an evolutionary one, perhaps).

  • This is obviously written by a side of the industry defending the ICE.

    At least in America, if not the planet, more convenient, less costly, motoring will move the market in your direction.

    EVs cost less to charge/fuel than ICEs, and they are more powerful and can be charged from home, not the gas station. The ONLY thing holding EVs back is cost/battery tech. When batteries tech catches up to the EV tech in the Teslas, EVs will take off after 2020.

    Tesla is onto something big, and they know it. For example, in one generation, they built a sports car as good as the BMW M5, which has been in development for 25 years? And it will save you thousands on fuel costs every year.

    The upside is unprecedented.....
  • tokyorushtokyorush Posts: 24
    While I agree that there is still some work to do in order for EV's (or any other fuel source) to get to the level of ICE's, I think this article is pretty extreme.

    Gasoline is, indeed, a good source of energy / gallon. Not as good as electricity, but good.

    Gas is, also, not crude oil. It takes an amazing amount of energy to find it, extract it, refine it, move it and pump it just to get to a standard ICE car. Further, a significant part of the energy stored in gasoline is wasted as heat in an ICE vehicle, which is a terrible waste.

    Some guy looking at the environmental impact of charging EV's from China's unregulated coal plants has nothing to do with the environmental cost of electricity here in the US. Nevermind that the US is less than 45% coal based electricity - here we have scrubbers on our coal plants that are much more effective than catalytic converters in ICE car engines. His analysis is crap and was paid for by the petroleum companies. Oh, and the electricity at my house is mostly solar.

    The environmental impact of making batteries is an issue of sorts, but it is mostly an issue of the ICE vehicles needed to mine and transport the Li. The other issue is Cobalt anodes in Li batteries. That is a real issue until they finalize a substitute (which is looking about 2-3 years away). But even today it's just a bogus argument that ICE cars have less of an environmental impact than EV's. And don't forget that Li and Cobalt in EV's is recyclable. One of the great things automakers have done is gotten very good at recycling. There is NO loss of Li, or of Co in batteries and no reason not to recycle the base products or reuse the batteries in lower power uses for years afterwards.

    Don't get me started on building engines, Oil, caltalytic converters, and other working parts of an ICE that are inefficient, break, and environmentally a disaster.

    From an infrastructure perspective you have a sort of point, but you forget that every building in America has electricity. Yes, 110 V / 15 A is not going to charge much of anything - but it is a small change to run a 30 or 50 A / 220 V connection to a garage. The town I live in has 3 free charging stations already and it is a very small cost to put in another one. In short - I believe that the infrastructure is less than 3 years from viability across most metro areas of the US - and if you are lucky enough to have a Tesla (or MB or Toyota using Tesla's system) - you should be able to leverage upgraded superchargers this year that will completely recharge 200M+ range in less than 40 minutes.

    Finally, batteries are on the cusp of some huge technology breakthroughs. I fully expect them to be lighter, faster charging, and significantly cheaper - especially if we can get the supercapacitor technologies ready for commercial use.
  • darthbimmerdarthbimmer Posts: 606
    Electric battery technology clearly doesn't do everything the internal combustion engine can do today but it's continually improving. Sometimes the improvement is gradual; other times it's a quantum leap forward. The Tesla is an example of a quantum leap because it upends everything we thought we knew about electrics. With the Tesla we see that electrics don't have to: 1) look like alien spaceships, 2) come only in subcompact size, 3) accelerate and corner leisurely, 4) have no-frills interiors, and 5) barely make it 75 miles on a charge. Curiously, companies deeply invested in gas engine technology are still making electrics with ALL these drawbacks. It's like they don't want the cars to succeed. (And, really, they don't. Companies hate to cannibalize their own markets, even though it's only the ones who do that survive.) I look forward to seeing what disruptive companies like Tesla can do over the next few iterations. How about a car the size of a Ford Focus, with similar performance and comfort levels, that gets 300 miles between charges and is affordable by the mainstream consumer? That may not even be 5 years away, let alone 25.
  • Okay, well we did invent gasoline is does not come out of the ground that way and if you look at how little gasoline you use at only 20 mpg it's a line the size of a paperclip stretched out over those 20 miles and thats really a small amount.
    As gasoline engines get better it will be even harder for electric to take hold. yep the gasoline engine is hear for many many more years.
  • splineyspliney Posts: 1
    " EV is only as clean as the power plant that generates the electricity that it uses" I guess my solar panels are a little dusty. Sorry my ActiveE tracked dirt on your carpet.

    John Broder Lives! He just changed his last name to Edmunds.
  • chuck_bchuck_b Posts: 1
    In fact, the internal combustion engine is far behind the electric motor in every measurable specification. The only advantage ICEs currently have is a century head start over EVs and the infrastructure that go along with it.

    Luckily, next generation batteries will virtually erase this advantage and they're only about 5 years out. If EVs can go as far and recharge faster then filling a gas tank, as well as costing as much as it's ICE counterpart, there isn't one reason, not one, to choose a gas powered car. With that being a reality within 5 to 10 years, how did this oil company shill come up with EVs still making up less then 1% of new vehicle sales?

    Here's the thing Jason Kavanagh, if you're going to try and spread lies, you should at least give your audience the benefit of the doubt and not assume they share your knuckle dragging IQ. Also, don't make ridiculous statements without backing them up (oh, and don't use figures and facts that your friends at Exxon give you. People are on to that now).

    And shame on you edmunds for giving this clearly ignorant writer with an agenda a forum to spew his rhetoric. We come here because we love cars and the great technologies that go along with them. This kind of nonsense only encourages us to go elsewhere... and that's pretty easy on the internet.
  • juan_mxjuan_mx Posts: 2
    I remember that 20 years ago Sandia Laboratories was working on a Fuel Cell that used some kind of reformulated gasoline instead of hydrogen. I don't know what happened to that technology.
  • jeffc9jeffc9 Posts: 1
    wow, some green EV coolaide drinkers got up on the wrong side of the bed today ...

    of course Ev will never be viable ... we've been trying to make better batteries for 100 years and this is as far as we've gotten ... yes, for 100 grand you can build an EV that matches a Chevy cruze for the first 200 miles ... after that not so much ...

    simple physics shows the difficulty in try to build a rapid charging battery ... you are trying to transform a tremendous amount of energy from electricity to chemical form (the battery) ... thats very dangerous and costly ... refueling an ICE requires no energy transformation ...

    lmbvette ... you should try reading the entire article before commenting ... no he didn't mention the Volt specifically but obviously was talking about Volt-like hybrids ...

    I assume you are happy to line the pockets of Whole Foods executives since they provide you with something you want ... oil executives are no different and I'm happy to line their pockets especially if we get out of their way and let them drive the price of gas down to $2 again ...
  • There always were, and likely will be people like this regressive scionce fiction writer.
    So this is a better prediction of the future:
    1)Once a transmission with more than one forward gear is improved to work reliably, EV's economy #'s will go up.
    2)Irrational buying, just because others are buying will kick in, so keeping up with Smith family will work as it always did.
    3)Maintenance and longevity of EV's is double of a diesel, and here we go again, who wants to spend 2 hours on an oil change.
    Question is how how fast will EV's excell over hybrids. Faster than this Big Oil funded guy said.
  • alangeeralangeer Posts: 1
    While this article makes some good (yet unfortunate) points, I prefer to believe that electricity is not created *only* from dirty sources. For example, the solar panels on my house are about as clean as it gets and power my Model S very nicely, and then some.
    Oil is dirty both acquiring it and consuming it - not to mention the worldwide political aspects. Electricity is not perfect by any means, but it offers some new direction & options over the never ending list of crap that comes with oil. Frankly I am happy to sit and crank out a few emails or calling mom to say hi while waiting for my car to charge. That is a great trade off for not feeding the worldwide empire of oil - not to mention the the financial savings of my EV. You'll get it - someday.
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