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Is It the End of Internal Combustion Engines?

Controversial  ·  November 8, 2022

Is It the End of Internal Combustion Engines?

There’s plenty of talk by governments and in the media about moving away from using internal combustion engines. The global goal is to switch to low or zero-emission vehicles like electric, hybrid, or hydrogen vehicles, but that begs the question: will internal combustion engines disappear for good?

No, this is not the end of internal combustion engines, nor will it be for the foreseeable future. Governments are not banning but rather phasing out combustion-engine vehicles over a period. The mass adoption of EVs and similar vehicles is challenging, and many obstacles still need to be solved. Until then, combustion engines are here to stay.

In this article, we’ll discuss what’s to become of internal combustion engines in the face of low- or zero-emissions vehicles.

Are Combustion Engines Going to Be Banned?

First and foremost, this discussion needs to make one thing clear: No, combustion engine vehicles are not being banned outright. They're not going to disappear from the face of the Earth any moment soon.

There needs to be more clarity about how society in Australia and elsewhere will transition towards low or zero-emission vehicles.

For example, you’ve likely heard or read about combustion engine bans in many countries worldwide. Locally, even the Australian Capital Territory has announced banning combustion engine vehicles in 2035.

The ACT is the first region in Australia to declare such a ban. Other states will undoubtedly follow suit soon, like other countries and their states already do.

While those bans target combustion engine vehicles directly, it’s crucial to look closely at the details. 

In reality, what’s being banned is the sale of new combustion engine vehicles. That means that existing cars will still be allowed, and you can still buy and sell them on the second-hand market.

Governments locally and abroad are aware that the transition from combustion engines to zero-emission vehicles will take time, and it’s not something that can be done overnight. 

So, their approach is to “phase them out” by banning manufacturers from producing new ones. 

That way, existing combustion engine vehicles will slowly disappear in the coming decades. The only cars left on the road will be EVs and similar automobiles.

For the foreseeable future, the existing combustion-engine vehicles will remain on the roads until they reach the end of their lifespans.

What Will Replace Combustion Engines?

When the time comes that no new combustion engine vehicles are being made, what’s going to take their place?

Generally, auto manufacturers will focus on making low or zero-emissions vehicles. The terminology used worldwide might differ slightly, but manufacturers will eventually move towards making cars that don’t spew harmful gases from their tailpipes.

In fact, most of them probably won’t have tailpipes at all!

Those vehicles include the likes of:

What Are the Biggest Problems with Electrical Vehicle Adoption?

So far, in this article, two things are clear. 

Firstly, governments are shifting away from combustion engines. For example, the ACT government has set a deadline for when it wants manufacturers to stop producing combustion-engine vehicles. Plus, it’s reasonable to assume that other local governments will do the same thing eventually.

Secondly, combustion engine vehicles can’t and won’t disappear overnight. Instead, the powers that be will attempt to phase them out over many years, if not decades.

Despite that, there are several reasons to believe that the end of internal combustion engines is nowhere near.

Getting rid of combustion-engine vehicles and switching to EVs or similar cars continue to pose challenges.

As long as those problems remain unsolved, combustion engine vehicles will continue to be most people’s first choice for the foreseeable future.

Here are 5 of the biggest problems that slow down the adoption of zero-emission vehicles like EVs and, as a result, keep internal combustion engines the more practical option:

#1 Infrastructure

First and foremost, non-combustion engine vehicles require many infrastructures that still need to be built. That includes charging stations for electric or plug-in hybrids and hydrogen refuelling stations for fuel cell vehicles.

While EV infrastructure exists, they’re not around every corner like petrol stations are.

In other words, you can keep your combustion engine vehicle refuelled anywhere you go because there’s always a petrol station around the corner, even in remote areas.

Zero-emission vehicles have limited infrastructure, which is why most consumers are slow to switch away from combustion-engine cars.

#2 Range

Since the charging and refuelling infrastructure isn’t abundant everywhere in Australia, the maximum range of an EV or other zero-emission vehicle becomes even more critical.

While EVs can go pretty far on a single charge, they still can’t go far enough if you drive cross-country, where charging stations are rare.

That’s not a problem faced by combustion engine vehicles because they are unlikely to run out of fuel before reaching another petrol station.

#3 Availability

The number of non-combustion-engine vehicles that automakers build will grow with time, but it has yet to reach a point where there's enough for everyone.

So, even if everyone decided to abandon their combustion-engine cars right now, there wouldn’t be enough low or zero-emission vehicles to replace them just yet.

#4 Energy Shortages

People often overlook the effect of energy crises on electric vehicles.

When energy is abundant and charging costs are low, EVs stand out as superior to combustion engine vehicles.

However, what happens if everyone drove an EV and energy supply shortages occur? Prices will rise and, suddenly, charging EVs will become incredibly expensive.

Besides that, EV drivers might suddenly find themselves with plenty of restrictions on how and when they can recharge their cars. 

If you think that’s unlikely, think again! It’s already happening in California (United States). There, EV car owners have been advised not to overload the electrical grid and only charge their cars at night.

#5 Affordability

Last but not least, the affordability of electric vehicles (and hybrid fuel cell vehicles) is still a significant issue.

No matter what rules a government puts into place regarding adopting zero-emission vehicles, none will matter if even the cheapest EV is far too expensive for the average Australian.

Again, unless this and the other problems above are resolved, internal combustion engines will be here to stay.

Bottom Line: Are Combustion Engine Cars Going Away?

This article has explored several issues, but the bottom line is clear. Either way, this is not the end of internal combustion engines, and it won’t be for a very long time.

Firstly, government policies in Australia or elsewhere aren’t banning combustion engine vehicles entirely. Instead, they’re banning the manufacture of new cars.

People can still drive existing cars and buy and sell used cars as usual.

Secondly, adopting EVs and other zero-emission vehicles won’t be as easy as many assume. Moving away from combustion engine vehicles remains a challenge.

For now and the foreseeable future, combustion engines are still the most practical solution for vehicles.

Keep checking the Blog at CarpartAU for updates on the automotive industry in Australia and beyond.


By Ray Hasbollah

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