The Future of Cars Lies in Gasoline-Powered Technology


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SANTA MONICA, Calif.-April 17, 2013: Gasoline-powered engines aren't going anywhere soon and, in fact, they're expected to remain the dominant force in the automotive market for decades to come, reports Edmunds.com. But, contrary to popular belief, Edmunds.com says that gasoline's staying power isn't necessarily a bad thing.

“Gasoline is cheap, abundant and packs more energy into a given volume than anything short of nuclear materials. It's so capable that if it didn't exist, we'd have to invent it.”

"Gasoline's talents and versatility make the internal combustion engine a juggernaut that cannot be matched by any other power source," says Edmunds.com Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh. "Gasoline is cheap, abundant and packs more energy into a given volume than anything short of nuclear materials. It's so capable that if it didn't exist, we'd have to invent it."

Edmunds.com's assessment throws cold water on the hopes that electric vehicles will make deep cuts into the market for internal combustion engines (ICE) in the coming years. Today, electric vehicles make up less than 0.09 percent of new car sales, and studies suggest that by 2040 all-electric vehicles are expected to comprise less than one percent of sales.

Mr. Kavanagh makes several points to suggest that the threat to internal combustible engines is much farther away than most people believe:

  • ICE has better range. When Edmunds.com picked up its Tesla Model S in Fremont, CA and drove it 350 miles back down the coast to Los Angeles, the team had to stop twice at superchargers to top off the sedan's batteries. A $100,000 ICE-powered luxury sedan can easily travel that distance on a single tank of gasoline.
  • It's easier (and quicker) to refuel. The biggest hurdle for electric vehicles is the time it takes to charge. Even in the best case, Edmunds.com found that the Tesla Model S supercharge stations can charge the sedan's battery pack 50 percent in about a half-hour. Compare that to just a couple of minutes to refuel an ICE vehicle.
  • There's untapped potential. Even though gasoline has been around for a while, the biggest advances to its efficiency and emissions are relatively new, with even more improvements on their way. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the fuel efficiency of the average ICE car is up 16 percent in the last five years.
  • The environmental benefits of EVs are unclear. An EV is only as clean as the power plant that generates the electricity that it uses. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with running EVs undercut those produced by conventional ICEs by roughly 40 percent. But there's also the significant environmental impact of manufacturing vehicles in the first place, and it has been argued that ICE-powered vehicles hold an edge over their EV counterparts made of rare earth materials.

As both electric and ICE vehicles progress, Edmunds.com believes that hybrid vehicles -- which can leverage the myriad upsides of each technology -- stand to see the biggest gains in the coming years and decades. Edmunds.com projects that 40 to 50 percent of new car sales in 2040 will be hybrids.

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