The Cheat Sheet

Is the internal combustion engine dead?

JINOY JOSE P | Updated on January 10, 2018 Published on September 13, 2017


The Economist thinks it is.

Well, the UK magazine is one of the many entities to write the mighty ICE’s obituary of late. Of course, with good reason. Advancements in battery technologies are expected to make the internal combustion engine a thing of the past pretty soon. If the growth in the sales numbers of electric cars, including the snazzy ones from the stables of Elon Musk’s maverick enterprise Tesla, are any indication, vehicles that guzzle fossil fuels are riding towards their inevitable demise sooner than later.

Tell me more about it.

Last year, EV sales shot up in major markets such as China, US and Europe thanks to decreasing costs. Battery-powered vehicles saw a 60 per cent jump in sales in 2016, having passed the one-million mark in 2015, up from a few hundreds across the globe in just about a decade ago.

Ride on!

China, the US and Europe now account for more than 90 per cent of the EVs sold, with China leading the pack, according to the International Energy Agency. About a third of the new cars sold in Norway are electric.

The Netherlands comes next with 6.4 per cent, and Sweden at 3.4 per cent. So, given this transformation, the good ol’ internal combustion engine seems to be having a tough race ahead.

Agreed. China is fairly aggressive about its EV crush.

Yes. Just the past week, the Communist country — which also happens to be the world’s largest car market — shocked the world, especially global car makers, by announcing that it will join the club of countries such as France and the UK and soon ban the sale of new petrol and diesel engines. In effect, China says it wants to bid adieu to the omnipotent, omnipresent internal combustion engine.

Wow! That’s quite a move.

That said, China hasn’t given a date to this mission. But that’s not very far given that the UK and France are planning to phase out fossil-fuel-powered vehicles by 2040. Experts feel electric cars will cost much less than their gas counterparts by 2025 or before. Equally important is the fact that the pollution caused by ICE cars kills around three million people every year. The rising levels of environmental awareness among civil societies and the global clamour against use of dirty fuel such as diesel will also power the growth of electric vehicles.

Do the car makers understand this?

They do. Recently, Swedish multinational Volvo said its new vehicles will include electrification from 2019. Volvo is not alone. A host of other auto makers have set ambitious goals for EVs. Volkswagen Group, the world’s largest auto maker, has said it would offer more than 30 battery electric models by 2025. Toyota is likely to begin mass production of EVs in China as early as 2019.


A Bloomberg report last year predicted that by 2023, EVs could displace the demand for 2 million barrels of oil a day, enough to cause an oil crash. The estimate assumed global EV sales would grow at the current rate of about 60 per cent, although a conservative estimate points to 2025 as the year for an oil crisis.

That’d be epochal, if it happens.

The Economist report quoted a study by UBS bank which said electric vehicles would make up 14 per cent of global car sales by 2025. That’s highly plausible. Battery prices, which account for about half the cost of EVs today, are estimated to cost about 77 per cent less between 2016 and 2030. So, in all likelihood, it is just a matter of time before the ICE exits the scene, having fulfilled a great role in humanity’s progress. Long live the ICE!

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Published on September 13, 2017
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