Politicians Planning To Ban Petrol Engine Speak Too Soon.
“Even by 2040, transport will be dominated by combustion engines and 85 to 90% of transport energy will come from oil,”
Virtue signalling politicians compete with each other to bring forward the theoretical day when carbon dioxide (CO2) is eliminated from our cars, trucks, ships and airliners, but this is not going to happen any time soon and traditional engines will retain dominance for years to come.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared Britain would bring forward the day new gasoline, diesel and hybrid powered cars and SUVs would be banned from sale to 2035 from 2040. Countries like Denmark have already declared 2030 to be the year when everybody must only buy battery-electric powered cars, or fuel-cell ones if available. The European Union (EU), minus Poland, has a target of going net carbon neutral by 2050.
The EU has decreed that by 2030, the average fuel consumption of internal combustion engine-powered vehicles must be 92 miles per U.S. gallon, which is just another way of saying all new cars must be battery-electric vehicles (BEV). That’s a problem given they are unaffordable to average income buyers.
Forecasters in the real world paint a different picture. According to investment bank Morgan Stanley, global sales of BEVs will only reach 24% by 2030, from about 2% in 2019 and 11% in 2025. And that is a stretch if you look at IHS Markit’s projection of BEV production reaching only 15.9% by 2030, while output of gasoline, diesel, and mild-hybrids cars and SUVs would still account for just over 70%.
Either way, a big gap is opening up between what politicians say, urged on by high-profile environmentalists like Greta Thunberg, and what is happening in the real world. The key point surely is that politicians making unrealistic claims for short-term gain will probably be retired when their plans implode, and the rioting starts. Forecasters have to stick around and live with their predictions.
Professor Gautam Kalghatgi, visiting professor for Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College London and Engineering Science at Oxford University, says the politicians and environmentalists declared aims are not possible.
ICE Wins For Years To Come
“Internal combustion engines (ICE) are going to power transport to a very large extent for decades to come, so the best way to ensure the sustainability of transport is to improve ICE engines. It is imperative to improve such engines to improve the sustainability of transport,” Kalghatgi said in a speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
“Even by 2040, transport will be dominated by combustion engines and 85 to 90% of transport energy will come from oil,” Kalghatgi said, quoting the U.N. accredited World Energy Council data.
Tell that to the British government, which this week said its planned ban on the sale of new gasoline, diesel and hybrid autos might well be brought forward to 2032 from 2035.
Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) applauds the British government’s motives in seeking to ban ICE vehicles but believes this isn’t the fastest way to get rid of CO2. It argues that because of the 300 million plus number of ICE cars on Europe’s roads with an average life span of about 12 years it would be impossible to replace them quickly with battery-electric vehicles. So it would make sense to invest in making current ICE technology more efficient.
“Whilst we rightly continue to invest in electric vehicles we must also pursue and invest in renewable and low carbon fuels made from sustainable and net zero sources. These alternative fuels would be able to use the existing infrastructure, reducing consumer impact at the fuel pump and potentially avoiding the cost associated with new infrastructure to support electric vehicle adoption at pace,” IMechE said in a statement.
In an earlier report IMechE said policy makers need to be aware that electric vehicle technology is far from zero-emissions when it is subject to life-cycle or “cradle to grave” analysis.
“This analysis shows that an electric vehicle produces about half the greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime as a (gasoline) vehicle when taking into account emissions produced as a result of the manufacture of the vehicle, mainly the battery pack, and the source of power used to charge it,” IMechE said.
Kalghatgi said in an interview that BEVs can’t possibly meet the goals assigned to them. They don’t save much CO2, they are too expensive to replace affordable mass market cars and SUVs, the charging network and power generation requires massive investment, and raw materials required in the production of batteries look to be in short supply with the inevitable price spikes as demand increases.
Electric cars like the Tesla Model S with a 100 kWh battery start life with a 20 ton CO2 deficit compared with an ICE model. In countries where energy is oil, gas or coal based, electric cars aren’t very clean or green, he said.
“So there is significant scope for improving the efficiency of ICE engines, with lean burn, turbocharging, and compression ignition. Further improvements of up to 50% are possible with light-weight materials, vehicle down-sizing and partial electrification,” Kalghatgi said.
Partial electrification, otherwise known as “mild-hybrid” engines, use higher voltage to provide additional electrical power to drive an increasing number of electrical components in cars. The higher power can be combined with a belt-starter generator to assist acceleration and can increase fuel efficiency by between 10 and 15%.
“I don’t think what the politicians suggest is possible. Governments have chosen the technology – electric – but they aren’t zero CO2 by any stretch of the imagination. A small car like a Nissan Leaf might save say 20% of the CO2. Common sense and peer reviewed papers shows CO2 saved in battery electric vehicles depends on how the electricity is generated and the battery components footprint,” Kalghatgi said.
“Not only will this destroy the car industry because people won’t be able to afford electric cars, but when the public realizes that this is going to cause them a lot of heartache with many people effectively barred from driving, there will be a day of reckoning,” Kalghatgi said.
That suggests that the French “gilets jaunes” movement, which still mounts violent protests because of its government’s decision to suddenly raise standard of living threatening taxes on diesel and gasoline, might well spread across Europe as the EU rules tighten.
He said to meet the CO2 targets, not only would there have to be a massive increase in power generation, but aviation would have to be banned.
Dismantle the economy
“We are talking about completely dismantling the economy as we know it. I’m very sceptical all these targets are achievable. To replace all current ICE cars would mean an impossible increase in battery capacity. And it’s based on the assumption people will buy BEVs but look at their cost; someone buying from their own pay packet – teachers, fire-fighters, nurses, and the public charging points who pays for that? There is also the question of generating extra electricity. In Britain, if the percentage of BEVs rose to 30% of the total by 2030, that would require 9 million BEVs and three new nuclear power stations,” Kalghatgi said.
Greg Archer, from Brussels-based green campaigning group Transport & Environment (T&E), has no time for these doubts and says carmakers need to get with the program.
“The shift to electric cars is now accelerating across Europe driven by regulations requiring carmakers to lower the CO2 emissions from new cars. Had these carmakers wanted to achieve targets by improving the efficiency of conventional vehicles they could have done (like Toyota and its hybrid vehicles), but instead most are future-proofing their investments by focusing on selling more electric cars that they recognize will be cheaper to own and better to drive in the medium term,” said Greg Archer, U.K. director at U.K. director at T&E.
“The U.K. announcement to ban sales of cars with engines by 2035 (now provisionally cut to 2032) at the latest, places it at the forefront of the transition to electric cars. In doing so it presents the best possible opportunity to preserve auto manufacturing in the UK,“ Archer said.
Kalghatgi though sees disaster if electric plans aren’t diluted.
“Such a massive increase in BEVs will have unsustainable environmental and economic impacts. Eliminating CO2 would mean the end of aviation, steel and cement and there’d be no gas for central heating. There would be public riots. But ICE engines are going to power most transport for decades to come. We could make a big impact on cutting CO2 by simply improving the efficiency of the remaining ICE engines. We could improve this by 50% with mild hybrids etc and that’s the sensible thing to do,” Kalghatgi said.
But the regs still stand, big fines for failure to be at 95 g/km or lower. We’re not far from 2021-2022, the vehicles that will be sold then are basically done-deals in terms of engineering, and likely some tooling is already on order.
This is a topic that came up at the GERPISA conference in January, which met at the French auto industry association headquarters off Arch de Triomphe. The mix companies will need to hit these targets is not the mix of vehicles consumers currently purchase. The financial penalties are severe, easily exceeding OEM profts.
Something has to give. Are there any signs regulators have a backup plan? And politicians are prepared to back them? I don’t read German / British media regularly (and I can’t read French), but this article suggests all have their heads in the sand.