About a month ago, Audi CEO Marcus Duesmann announced that the company will, from this point forward, stop developing new internal combustion engines. Instead, they’ll begin phasing out fuel burning vehicles in favor of electric propulsion. Car enthusiasts and those familiar with the industry have long known and recently began to accept that internal combustion engines are entering their golden years. They’re as good as they’ve ever been, but they’re not going to be around for all that much longer.
Or, perhaps more accurately, manufacturers probably won’t be developing new ones for too much longer. We all knew that this was coming, and we know that more and more OEMs will be making similar announcements in the future. But that still doesn’t make news like this any less tragic for enthusiasts.
However, instead of sulking (trust me, I want to sulk, too), let’s take a moment to really assess what this announcement from Audi means, as well as what we can expect in the future regarding the longevity of internal combustion engines.
What exactly did Audi say?
According to this Road & Track article, Audi’s CEO told the German publication Automobilwoche the following: “We will no longer develop a new internal combustion engine, but will adapt our existing internal combustion engines to new emissions guidelines.” Importantly, he did not say that Audi is going to immediately begin phasing out ICEs, or even that Audi isn’t going to continue using ICEs in new cars. Instead, the company will continue using the engines that they have already developed (of which there are many) and continue to improve upon those engines and adapt them to increasingly stringent emissions laws. Duesmann says that this decision was made in response to the EU’s ever-tightening restrictions on what is and isn’t acceptable regarding automobile emissions.
Why it’s significant that it’s Audi
Any major automaker announcing that they no longer plan to develop internal combustion engines in the future is big news, but it’s especially big news coming from Audi. From an enthusiast’s standpoint, Audi has a storied history of developing some of the most fantastic engines to ever roam our streets: from the inline-5s of old to the modern force-fed V8s that power super sedans and super-wagons, Audi knows how to build fun engines. This announcement, though, means that ICE devotees will no longer be able to look forward to whatever new fire-breathing gas burner Audi will come up with next. However, this consequence is small potatoes compared to what may follow in the wake of Audi’s announcement.
As we all know, Audi belongs to the Volkswagen family of manufacturers. The VW Group is one of the biggest OEM conglomerates to exist, and while each manufacturer within the VW Group can more or less make their own decisions, there are corporate relations that can’t be entirely ignored. What I’m saying is, don’t be surprised if other manufacturers within the VW Group follow in Audi’s footsteps, because Volkswagen themselves already has. While I would be thoroughly shocked to see Lamborghini, Porsche or Bugatti announce that they too will stop developing new engines, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bentley, SEAT or SKODA followed suit. In other words, if a company like Volvo made the same announcement that Audi did, I wouldn’t be too worried. This is because, for one, Volvo engines aren’t anything to write home about, but more importantly, they don’t have the potential to have widespread industry influence like Audi or VW. Besides, Volvo already announced that they plan to be all-electric by 2030, and no one really cared, but Audi’s announcement caused quite an uproar.
How fast will other brands follow Audi’s lead?
Now that we’ve gone over all of the details regarding Audi, I think we all want to know where the rest of the industry stands. In order to satisfy that curiosity, let’s look at what other OEMs have publicly committed to electrification.
- Jaguar: Jaguar announced that 100% of Jags sold after 2030 will be electric.
- Bentley: Bentley announced that they plan to only sell electric cars by 2030.
- GM: GM (which includes Chevy, GMC, Cadillac and others) announced that they plan to switch to all-electric by 2035.
- Mini: Mini says that they plan to be electric only by 2030.
- Volvo: Volvo plans to be all-electric by 2030.
- Ford EU: Ford plans to sell only electric and hybrid models in Europe by 2026, and electric only soon thereafter (only effective in Europe).
- Toyota: Toyota announced back in 2017 that it plans to stop selling gas-powered cars by 2040.
- Mercedes: Mercedes announced in 2019 that it will stop selling new internal combustion cars by 2040.
At the time of writing, these are the only OEMs (to my knowledge) that have formally set a date by which they will stop selling new gas-powered vehicles, though you’re in for a surprise if you don’t expect this list to grow quite a bit in the coming years.
Government regulation: What will be the fate of gas-powered vehicles?
Finally, it’s important to touch on one of the most controversial (and truly frightening) topics in the world of vehicle electrification: will gas-powered vehicles ever be illegal to own or drive? No. Or at least, not any time soon.
Certain state governments (i.e., California) have announced that they plan to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles. But no governments so far have announced that they plan to ban the use or ownership of gas-powered vehicles altogether. (Or the sale of used gas-powered vehicles (cue harmonious sigh of relief from car enthusiasts everywhere.)
However, that doesn’t mean that governments won’t regulate to limit the emissions of gas-powered vehicles. And to some extent, this is understandable. I think that most everyone nowadays will agree that the environment is fragile and needs to be protected and preserved.
Additionally, I think most people will also agree that it is our responsibility, as the only inhabitants of this planet with the means to make change, to see to that protection and preservation. And there are some very intriguing electric cars coming now and in the future.
However, the point of contention centers around whether personal transportation is the right tree to be barking up. Because things like electricity production, industry, and public transport produce harmful emissions in numbers that vastly outweigh those of cars. I don’t think there would be any opposition to making city buses electric, anyway.