Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?

October the 6th 2018 seems like such a long time ago, doesn’t it?  On that day I posted a small item about the end of the line for ICE engines.

Perfect lead-in curvature

Today automotive News posted an item headlined “VW says next generation of cars with combustion engines will be the last”. The next sentence is “Volkswagen Group expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026.” Hey sister, that’s 8 years away. Bloomberg has much the same story, by the way.

In my October 6th article I wrote “A car launched in 2018 might be replaced in 2025 leaving a short product cycle to recoup investments. That makes the period around now the last point at which it will be worth bothering to engineer for ICE engines.” I did not expect that. It means that VW will be making ICE engines for a whole model cycle, the run out cycle, from 2026 to 2031, which in my view is about seven years too long. The bans on ICE engines will be coming in the early part of VW’s last ICE model cycle.

A lovely old gas guzzler: source

(Sidebar: In the same issue of ANE Kenneth Crains declares we should turn off subsidies for EVs. Get back in your cistern, Mr Crains.)

Bloomberg says this: “Our colleagues are working on the last platform for vehicles that aren’t CO2 neutral,” Michael Jost, strategy chief for Volkswagen’s namesake brand, said Tuesday at an industry conference near the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. “We’re gradually fading out combustion engines to the absolute minimum.”

On the same day, FCA have announced plans to retool the Mirafiori plant for EVs. Even FCA sees the writing on the wall. And if we go back a few days we can recall GM’s decision to close five factories so as to make fuel-hungry trucks and SUVs. The contrast to this is stark: “The rollout across VW’s stable of 12 automotive brands is forecast to comprise about 15 million vehicles, as the company earmarks $50 billion over the next five years to spend on its transformation to self-driving, electric cars.”

Daimler has said it will spend at least $11.7 billion to introduce 10 pure electric and 40 hybrid models, and that it intends to electrify its full range of vehicles, from mini-compact commuters to heavy-duty trucks.” Toyota has been working on EVs for two decades with ten million sales of such vehicles.

Lexus is majoring on hybrids. Ford is increasing its commitment to EV’s: “boosting its investment in electric vehicles to $11bn (£8bn) in the next five years, more than doubling a previous commitment.”  It’s a pity they’ll be trying to make EV trucks instead of EV saloons but still, they are trying**.

A little bit of the future: Chevrolet .com

The reason for all this scattergun EV data and VW’s engine announcement is to put into perspective GM’s doubling-down on trucks and SUVs and seeming lack of interest in life after the next decade. We discussed recently which car firms we’d close if we had the power.

GM looks like pursuing a path of making a lot of money now but not being at all well-placed to survive what will be a sudden and intense pressure to cease ICE production which we’ll probably be experiencing inside the next decade. My hypothetical question was which firms we’d close so as to save the rest. It looks very much like VAG is doing all it can to ensure its future while GM is sitting on the porch sipping a rye and soda while the tsunami comes rolling in.

**If I give a beggar ten cents and then another twenty cents, I suppose I am doubling my initial donation. It sounds good, doesn’t it?

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

14 thoughts on “Is There A Way Forward Through The Frozen Glass?”

  1. That means that for the remaining time in which I’ll be able to safely conduct a car on a public road I’ll be able to buy an ICE car and my first enforced trip in an electro vehicle will be in a funeral van (with a hopefully fully charged battery).

    1. The funeral van in question is supposed to take me to a crematorium (if its electric operative range is reaching that far).
      To prevent them from having a last laugh on me I stated in my last will that my last means of transport must neither be from Uncle Henry nor an Opel.

  2. Surely those ICEs will increasingly be fitted in hybrid vehicles? Also the ban on ICEs is unlikely to happen at the exact same time around the world, so the lifespan of those VW engines may be longer than you assume.

  3. Im not convinced a bit by the current ICE ban and forced introduction of EV’s.Seems like governments are creating a new problem to solve another one

    1. Incremental change like switching from ICEs to EV´s is a sticking plaster. We ought to ditch most private car use. I have argued that there could still be reserves for car holidays in vintage/classic/youngtimer fleets. The rest of our transport needs could be accomodated by public transport and other systemic means (to enumerate the whole panoply of changs would take a new blog so I won´t do that).

    2. ” We ought to ditch most private car use.”

      Who’s we, Batman? Not everyone lives in some dense urban conurbation where pointy-headed academics practised in theory have already divined and planned the future that the rest of us must adapt to.

      Nova Scotia, where I live, has a population of 900,000 in an area one-quarter the size of the island of Great Britain. Put another way, it is as if England, Ireland and Wales population combined totalled 3.5 million. In our regional municipality where the largest city of a quarter million exists, the rural areas already are fed up that the agenda is stolen by the townies who are navel-gazers of the highest order putting in bike lanes and more buses on the backs of rural rate payers. We get nothing for our money except snow clearing and rubbish/recycling. Sidewalks don’t exist, the supermarket is seven miles away. And now “they” want to remove our freedom of mobility? Not going to happen without a fight, let me tell you. And I live in a more populated area. The real rurals working in farming and forestry would be even more disadvantaged if it were mandated that private vehicles were banned. Utopian bloody nightmare.

      Autonomous cars cannot even work in the rain with a droplet on a sensor. The current Level Two autonomous features are amateurish to experience – jerky steering, missed traffic signs. The algorithms cannot see through a minor “blur”. It seems quite clear the Silicon Valley twits are beginning to realize they have bitten off more than they can chew, at least for the present. Add in snow and these technical marvels are totally lost.

      So what, exactly? There’s to be car-sharing between people living in such low population densities? Will little plastic blobs deploy to move move people around in a mere decade’s time? I know – Uber to the rescue! There’s no Uber where there’s no business. None here.

      As for EVs, a more useless way of travelling and keeping warm in minus 1o C weather for four months a year has yet to be devised – try keeping the windscreen from freezing up in a bit of snow and wind – even ICE-engined cars struggle with inadequate heat. And nobody is going to sit cooped up in our log cabins and igloos because “planners” have devised some utopian future for us based on theory rather than practice. Utter tosh, frankly with present technical incapabilities.

      Let’as talk some common sense.

    3. I meant to say – England, Scotland and Wales above. I wrote Ireland for Scotland in my ire. Apologies.

      I still can’t get over bone-headed central planning. Is our future to be grey blocks of flats and condos in dense groups? People jammed together for effiency? Is this the nightmare of Soviet-era Moscow writ large for the future? Where tidy predictablity allows planners to make tidy planned solutions when the human being craves a little individuality? I don’t need or want bureaucrats to plan my life, thanks all the same. There’s quite enough rules and regulations to annoy everyone as it is.

      Public transport is non-existent in my area. Even bureaucrats can work out that it is uneconomic. “I have argued that there could still be reserves for car holidays in vintage/classic/youngtimer fleets.”

      With all due deference, hogwash. A solution that appeals only to urbanites is no solution at all. I spent 10 months in St Ives Huntingdonshire in the ’70s. One bus a day to Cambridge that took an hour and a half to go 15 miles. Useless, it was like being trapped in a bad dream. I spent what little I had saved up to get on a train and head out each weekend. That place without a car was utter purgatory.

    4. Bill Malcolm, well said ! 100 percent agreement here !

      I just look at all the “expert forecasts” for the auto industry over the last 50 years. All of them 100 percent wrong !

      In the early 70’s they were all planning for larger, more powerful engines. The the 1973 oil crisis hits.

      In the 1980’s, GM decided that the future of luxury vehicles was small, light, front wheel drive and fuel efficient. And they introduced a bunch when oil prices were below $10 a barrel.

      The list is endless.

      For auto industry forecasts, if you take the consensus of well-informed “progressive” opinion, and assume 180 degrees opposite, you would be pretty well fixed.

  4. Let’s suppose for a second that the switch to self-driving vehicles eventually succeeds. Once we get there, the appeal of owning a vehicle would tangibly diminish, for obvious reasons (there won’t be any passionate reasons left to overcome and justify the inevitably tedious aspects of private car ownership – particularly in such an overregulated, “challenged individuality” era). This would divert sales channels to fleets & public/private owned entities that offer transport services.

    This means that the sales/model development relation will suddenly resemble the one we now have in the commercial vehicles business model – eventually doing away with car design, styling and brand relevance.

    I think this is strongly connected to the prevailing panicky feeling that these days seems to invade the notion of predictability of the private sales segment.

    Corporate resilience to risk is strong, but risk is also a psychologically founded notion, just as well.

    Just saying…

  5. Bill, I live in the same general area of the UK (rural East Anglia) as you did and can report that public transport is little, if at all, improved since the 1970’s. Cars, either privately owned or taxis, are the only practical way for making many journeys. During my last two years in London, I lived perfectly happily without the encumberance of a car and imagine I could do so again, but rural life is a totally different proposition.

    My partner and I try to be responsible citizens and use our cars as little as practicable. We do less than 6000 miles a year in total, but remain penalised by a taxation system based on the nominal CO2 output rather than actual usage. The current system should be scrapped and be replaced by a fuel tax, with appropriate reductions for essential use such as commercial and public service vehicles. I would happily switch one of our cars to an EV once the charging network is extensive and reliable enough to make this feasible. Having said that, the UK is already facing a potential shortfall in electricity production in the 2020’s so I’ve no idea how we might cope with a wholesale switch to EV’s in the next decade.

    1. Bill, Daniel,

      I live in quite a densely populated part of the UK (Hampshire) and public transport here is a joke too and getting worse. Like most of the country the bus services have been pared back to the bone because local councils have little money to subsidise non-profitable routes, including ones that people rely on to get to work. It’s one of the main reasons I finally learned to drive in my forties. The only way I can see to get people (including me now) out of their cars is to make the alternatives more attractive and that’s a massive uphill battle.

      It’s interesting how EVs and autonomous vehicles often get mentioned together. As someone who works in the field of computer software I’m sceptical. In spite of the industry’s bullish claims I don’t expect to see any meaningful level of autonomous capability in my lifetime.

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