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Internal Combustion: Is The Writing On The Wall?

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Internal Combustion: Is The Writing On The Wall?


I’m sure we’ve all imagined a future where everyone drives electric cars.

None of us are naive enough to think that the day of the EV will never come, but today petrolheads here in the UK the whole discussion became a bit more real.

The UK government has just announced, as part of its policy to cut air pollution, that it’s putting forward a proposal to the High Court that the sale of all new petrol and diesel-powered cars will be banned by 2040. A quick-fire round of maths in my brain tells me that’s just 23 years away. Long before I reach retirement age I’ll no longer be able to buy a new car with a combustion engine. It seems awfully close now, doesn’t it?

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The UK aren’t the first to sign the execution order either. President Emmanuel Macron has already proposed that France will do the same by the same date, while Norway’s accelerated plans are to axe the petrol engine by 2025. Hold fire for more maths – eight years from now. Political pressure will ensure that more EU countries will follow in the coming months and years, mark my words.

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Some countries will undoubtedly cope better than others. Forward-thinking nations, such as Japan, are already adapting their infrastructure to cope. The US will be an interesting battleground, as parts of the country, such as California, are already accustomed to EVs, while other states are far more likely to drag their heels to the change. In terms of logistics, adapting vast countries such as the US and Australia to cater for EVs is going to be a huge challenge.

How do you see the move to electric happening in your nation?

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The reasoning behind the change is clear, and it is necessary. Both our planet and our collective health is in trouble, and the combustion engine, while some may argue isn’t the biggest culprit, definitely isn’t helping matters. We already have the technology in place to make this all a reality too – the generation of clean energy is advancing at an electric pace (thank you) – we just need someone to tell us that we have to let go of the apron strings.

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The biggest issue that lies ahead is adapting the infrastructure to suit this new method of powering our vehicles. In the 131 years since the internal combustion engine was first mated with the consumer vehicle the world around us has changed to make using a car a completely convenient practice. But it wasn’t always this way. I’m sure for the first generation of people to own and use a car it was an remarkably frustrating affair as you drove past countless places to feed and water your horse but nowhere to buy fuel.

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The difference this time is that we’ve got a head start on EVs. You can already charge your electric vehicle at almost every shopping centre and service station here in the UK. In forward-thinking US states such as California, running an EV is already part of everyday life for many people. Around a quarter of all cars sold in Norway are already electric. You may not have noticed, but we’re already part of the way there.

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But what does this mean for the enthusiast, for car culture, and for the petrolhead? For a start, that very term in itself will become a long forgotten colloquialism within our lifetime. It’s a sad realisation, but at least we got to live it, right? Spare a thought for near-future generations of enthusiast who, not so far down the line, will never get to experience a naturally aspirated four-pot screamer, the pull of a turbo V6 or the deep, thundering growl of a V8.

These are all soon to become antiquated forms of propulsion.

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The engine has become such as huge part of our lives that it’s hard to imagine a world without it. The motoring industry will have to adapt, and do so quickly – mechanics, garages, tuning companies, the entire aftermarket industry. If I was an aspiring mechanic in this day and age I’d already be focusing on specialising in electric motors – forget oily rags and spark plugs – your future will be in computer interfaces and USB plugs.

The oil industry will be hit the hardest, and it’s the lifeline of the economy for so many nations. The dawn of the electric vehicle will cause untold problems for those who are currently accumulating unimaginable wealth trading oil. They’ll have to adapt, or die.

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Despite these cloudy realisations, I don’t mean to come across as negative. I actually think we’re going to be OK.

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Electric cars are actually good now. They’re often slick, they’re advanced. They can be very, very fast.

Casting aside all visceral emotions towards the internal combustion engine, the motoring industry will adapt and grow. Car culture will go on. Sure it’ll be different; quieter, cleaner, more sterile. We’ll be tuning engines with USB sticks and firmware flashes rather than turbos and fuelling, but the passion for cars amongst those who enjoy them will never die. We might not be called petrolheads, but we’ll still be here.

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Personally, I’m excited by the future. Times change, technology changes and what was once the norm becomes forgotten. At the same time, my fondness for the internal combustion engine is irreplaceable, and I’m not quite ready to let go of this relationship just yet. We’ve come a long way, had a good ride and some great times.

The way I see it, we’ve got at least 23 years left to keep on enjoying all of the explosive dinosaur juice we can before it becomes an outdated and frowned upon practice. Use it wisely.

Jordan Butters
Instagram: jordanbutters
Facebook: Jordan Butters Photography
jordan@speedhunters.com

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