Driven by e-motion: ICE's long goodbye

In pre-recession 2007, I attended a lecture at Imperial College London on Peak Oil. The speaker, an academic with close ties to the oil and gas industry, believed Peak Oil had, in fact, happened. He claimed, it was entirely possible the lights would go out beyond 2012 and that the internal combustion engine would become obsolete almost overnight as the pumps ran dry.

A decade on, the lights never went out and the internal combustion engine is still the backbone of the automotive industry. But, that is changing. As Volvo announced it will cease production of internal combustion engine-only cars in 2019, an arms race has started for every manufacturer to move to electric powertrains or risk being left behind by new entrants and going the way of Kodak, Blockbuster and Nokia.

The automotive world believes that next step disruption lies in electrification and self-driving cars. The latter is going to be the most disruptive in terms of having the potential to have new entrants like Uber and Google push out old favourites like Ford or BMW. If you think that’s slightly dramatic, only 12% of Fortune 500 firms from 60 years ago exist today. And, estimates predict 40% of firms on there today will be gone in 10 years time. It’s rapid innovation leading to rapid disruption of traditional markets.

But as well as connectivity, software and sensor innovations - trends seen widely in most industries - the automotive world is beginning its biggest transformation in hardware to date, as it embraces the electric powertrain. For me, 2017 marks the beginning of the end for the faithful and era-defining internal combustion engine.

What’s most surprising, however, is that it’s not supply and demand that’s driving this huge engineering change, as Peak Oil Theory suggested, but instead the catalyst is a social and cultural one. Every manufacturer is producing hybrids and quickly developing electric vehicles in anticipation of a social change that is going to be driven by policy as much as environment awareness.

Who’d have thought, in these fractured times, politicians and the public actually agreeing on something for once.

Author
Justin Cunningham

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What a strange prediction in that only 5 years after peak oil the pumps would run dry. I am not an academic and not associated with the oil industry but logic suggests to me that although the rate of decline would likely be faster than the rate of increase an industry that has roots as far back as 19th century it might take a little longer than 5 years to reach a catastrophic rate of decline.
It is pretty much like this with the predictions regarding the rate of electrification of vehicles. All manufacturers either already have, or will soon introduce, mild hybrid solutions using BSG (belt starter generator) or similar technology. These systems are still fitted to a conventional ICE. So the announcement by Volvo, Ford and JLR etc are more about marketing hype than representing a wholesale change. I would guess that these systems will at best offer a 10% improvement in efficiency and you will still be able to refuel them at you local forecourt of choice.


Comment Steve, 15/09/2017
Great article highlighting the seismic change of the car market - however...
"only 12% of Fortune 500 firms from 60 years ago exist today" does that include those that were swallowed by other Fortune 500 companies?

"Politicians and the public actually agreeing on something for once"
Yes - they both agree that electric cars are crap. Mainly because the government seem indifferent to embracing the ability to create large-scale oportunities for Wind>Solar>BatteryStorage>Car to Grid and public charging points that would make EVs much more palatable. Andthe public are fed such horse manure from oil-backed sources and press that they still think that electric cars are totally impractical. As a Leaf driver, I can assure you that they are very much practical (for most users with shorter commutes and off-street parking)


Comment Adrian, 14/09/2017
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