The Internal Combustion Engine ain’t going down without a fight.
charging infrastructure, and a confusing total cost of ownership model. Still, the numbers of EVs on the road doubled between 2011 and 2012. So the concept is going somewhere – and quickly. In the last two years, BWM, Mercedes, Land Rover, Peugeot, Opel and even Porsche, have announced, and even launched EVs, thus increasing the diversity and appeal of electric cars – and interest has piqued in line with funding. Governments have ploughed an accumulative $8.7bn into EV research and development since 2008, focussing particularly on infrastructure and more cost-effective batteries. And batteries are a big sticking point. Experts are hopeful Hybrids and PHEVs will see their battery pack costs reduce by between 10 and 26% by 2020 – but we’re still a breakthrough away. In November, Ford announced an $8m project to solve the problem of the EV battery, with head researcher Ted Miller noting “In the span of 15 years, the industry has gone from lead-acid to nickel-metal-hydride to lithium-ion batteries … we are convinced [there’s] a better solution.” The EV concept is moving forward – a new tracker report from Navigant found there’s almost 64,000 public Plug-in Electric Vehicle charging stations installed globally while exponential growth will see the EV claim almost 7% of the motor market by 2020.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells There’s been a hydrogen resurgence of late. Navigant estimates the FCV market will grow from $194 million in 2015 to $73.8 billion in 2030 – and Scandanavia, Germany and the UK lead the charge. In June, the first Hyundai iX35 models hit the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark and in October it came to London. The UK will have 60 fueling stations by 2015 as part of a Europe-wide initiative to create a Y shaped hydrogen highways across Europe running from Rome to Scandinavia via the UK. In the past two years, BMW, Daimler, Nissan and Honda have also announced plans around fuel cell drivetrains, and collaboration agreements are in place to mitigate early technology risks. Toyota too is trying to tap the mass market potential of hydrogen power with an FCV Concept Car that boasts a range of at least 300 miles (500km) on a full tank and a refuelling time of three minutes. Pretty slick. Biofuel All this talk of an e-revolution could be moot if some genius in a Siberian lab invents a machine that converts urine, sugar or wheat into a sustainable fuel – stranger things have happened. Realistically, there’s potential for biofuels, whether ICE compatible or not, to change the game.
Death of 1,000 cuts Maybe we’re waiting on the BOOM! moment when the successor to ICE is born – but of the technologies mentioned in this article, not one has yet had its watershed moment. It could be that we have bitty, piecemeal progress for the next few years that ebbs away gently at the ICE’s dominance. The tipping point could simply be death by 1,000 cuts. Having said that, ICE has adapted tremendously well down the years, staying ahead of the technology and software curve to find new innovations, breakthroughs and efficiencies to reduce the nasties and improve in all areas. After a century of dominance the ICE has a lot of very influential friends – and there’s much social, financial and cultural capital around it – ICE ain’t going down without a fight. ■ Alistair Millar
ICE-powered cars represent 99.7% of cars on the road and estimates reckon 200,000 ICE-powered cars are assembled every single day. The global industry’s worth nearly $1,000 billion.
FLEET EUROPE # 68
Published on Jan 24, 2014