The Future Belongs to EVs but Banning Internal Combustion Engine Cars Is a Major Mistake

By now, most of us know that electric vehicles (EVs) have the potential to be great mobility companions. The same can be said about internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, given their evolution in virtually any relevant department. But when we think about the environment and our future on this planet, many, if not most of, us understand that the zero-tailpipe emission route is the one we must follow. So, banning ICE vehicles makes sense, right? Wrong! Here’s why.
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When thinking of an EV, one could be inclined to factor in only vehicles like the Tesla Model 3 or the BMW i4. These are battery-electric cars that are also known as BEVs. But there is another type of EV on the rise – the fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV). It uses hydrogen to create electricity, and the only thing it emits in the process is water. That is what the Toyota Mirai is doing. Things get even more interesting when you factor in things like BEVs with solar panels on top of them. The Lightyear 0 is a great example, even though it costs an ungodly amount of money.

But EVs are even more common than you might think. There are multiple types of powertrains. Manufacturers thought it would be a great idea to put them in the same greenish category, even though electricity plays a minor or a partial role in their complicated architecture. These are commonly known as hybrids.

Be it a chonky Mercedes-Benz GLS 450 SUV with a six-cylinder that hides a small motor cramped between the engine block and the gearbox or a Mazda CX-60 e-Skyactiv that comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine, a 100-kW electric motor, and a 17.8-kWh battery, these types of cars are considered EVs as well. The GLS, for example, is part of the mild hybrid electric vehicle (mHEV) category, while the Mazda is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The latter is meant for a very specific group of drivers who make sure their car’s battery is charged when most of the journeys are short and drive efficiently on longer trips. In some markets, they are also bought because of attractive incentives like free parking, lower annual taxes, and unrestricted access to low-emission zones.

Drivers who use plug-in hybrids with a heavy foot on the accelerator pedal and without charging the battery might think they are siding with those that care about the environment because they also have an electric motor, but the only thing they do is pollute more because PHEVs are heavier than their ICE counterparts. This weight increase leads to more fuel consumption and wear and tear. That’s why, for example, tire manufacturers are being pressured into finding a compound that does not generate so much air particulate emissions and, at the same time, can help heavier EVs have better range when they’re running on electricity alone.

Now that we know what we’re dealing with, let’s look at why banning ICE vehicles is a mistake.

The ownership experience is different for everyone

Right now, buying an EV and using it like an ICE car would be very expensive. For starters, charging is becoming increasingly costly. Some automakers offer discounts or complimentary charging for a limited period. But when you cannot access these perks, the cost of DC fast charging is pricy and sometimes the places where they're installed are unexpectedly crowded. You might have to wait for someone to leave. Then, you spend at least half an hour plugged in to replenish your car’s battery. So, raking in a lot of miles on a daily or weekly basis with a BEV is not that good of an idea for your budget and for your time.

And on top of this, EVs are generally more expensive than their ICE counterparts. In the UK, the gas-powered Fiat 500 starts from £14,990 ($17,054), while the EV version costs a whopping £30,645 ($34,866). That’s more than double! In the U.S., the new Kia Niro has an MSRP of $26,490, while the Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s cost starts from $33,740. If you want the Niro EV, then make sure you have at least $39,450 for one. At the same time, don’t forget there are still some incentives available in most developed markets that make buying an EV an attractive proposition. But they won’t be here forever…

However, becoming an EV owner starts to make a lot of sense when you can charge at home (overnight or when your electricity rates are the cheapest) and your daily travel needs are not very demanding of your car. Going from home to the office and back could be done entirely on electricity, even when using a PHEV. Traveling with an EV can also be comforting and cheap if, at the destination, you can find a no-cost socket to add some electrons while you’re sleeping or wondering about.

Problems might appear when there’s an emergency. Imagine you have to drive somewhere right away, and your all-electric car’s battery isn’t charged enough. That won't feel good, considering you’ll have to find a fast-charging station where you’ll have to spend at least 15-20 minutes or more. Or, let’s say you live in the city and can’t make use of your apartment’s electricity, and you’re forced to either charge at the office (if possible), at a mall (if they still allow it during these high electricity prices), or at dedicated charging stations. And in most of these scenarios, you will need a valid credit card, an app, or both.

With an ICE car, everything’s simpler. Just go to whatever fuel station you want and fill the tank for exactly how much money you have in your wallet or your bank account. You’ll pollute the environment by burning fossil fuel, but you’ll be more comfortable going anywhere, at any time (until OPEC+ decides otherwise, that is).

You buy an EV anyway

Some things are better with an EV. They're more silent, the power is delivered unexpectedly fast, and the wheels start spinning immediately. They're packed with the latest technologies, have a lower center of gravity, and give you a sense of belonging to a group of people that embraced the future before others even had time to learn what DC fast charging is.

But what happens when you want to sell your EV in, let's say, 2029? By then, industry experts expect batteries used in zero-tailpipe emission cars to be a lot better, and some big names from the automotive world, like BMW or Mercedes-Benz, are trying to break into the hydrogen game.

Your three-ton Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 might not be such an attractive car for people looking to enjoy a premium experience for less money a couple of years from now. The depreciation might become a real worry for EV enthusiasts soon. Admittedly, owners that pay over $125,000 for their vehicle might not care if it ends up with someone else for a lot less.

Meanwhile, enthusiasts will still bid on interesting ICE cars that come with interesting powertrains. If some V8-powered cars sell like hotcakes now, imagine what these cars will be worth when you won't be able to buy them new from any manufacturer.

But let’s say you spend the money on the new Rimac Nevera, the all-electric hypercar that might make you feel like taking off a runway is possible if you attach some wings to it. How will you show off? A Lamborghini or an Aston Martin can produce some sweet noises while the EV is silent. You might disagree with me, but there are people out there that buy these kinds of cars only to keep them in the city.

The pressing matters not many people think about

The issue with making EVs the only option is that buyers will most likely not change their preferences. If a person owns a Ford F-150 Raptor, they will most likely look for a powerful F-150 Lightning in the future. Instead of providing the world with the same style of cars but with different powertrains, maybe we should think about making traffic more bearable. How about incentivizing the acquisition of smaller vehicles like a wagon or a sedan that is guaranteed to have a smaller carbon footprint during its lifetime than, let’s say, a GMC Hummer EV? Or, hear me out, make public transport great again!

EVs do not perform as well in colder climates as they do in warmer ones. For many Americans or Canadians, this could pose a problem. What if you need to help your grandparents during a blizzard, but your car is unable to travel the distance you need to cover? That does not sound good.

Even though they’re considered to be safer than ICE vehicles, EVs are extremely dangerous when the battery is damaged. Not only can it burn for longer periods, but it can also ignite very fast, giving the occupants little time to leave the car. This is one of the reasons why firefighters are buying new containers that can keep a battery from spontaneously reigniting.

Similarly, when EVs break down and need servicing, they are usually in the shop for longer periods than the ICE ones. Sometimes it’s about parts shortage, while on other occasions, it is about not having enough qualified personnel to work on them.

The race to secure the metals needed in batteries is also very complicated. These resources are abundant in countries with questionable policies (apart from some exceptions like Australia), and making sure the supply chain is uninterrupted could pose a lot of challenges.

Electricity prices are also on the rise. For example, dirty power plants are being closed in Europe now. Their replacements, however, do not cover the energy that was made using coal or other fossil fuels. Germany, on the other hand, is well known for giving up on some of its nuclear power plants even though they are perceived as some of the cleanest sources of electricity. This trend is set to continue because governments aim to revamp their national power grid and want to make it a lot greener. That cannot be done with the help of the consumer, who will have to support this transition out of their own pockets.

On the other hand, gas and diesel prices won’t remain high forever. The current politico-economic climate allows major oil producers to curb output, but they already know prices can’t remain at these high levels forever. That's also one of the reasons why the current U.S. administration is releasing so much oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. They are trying to keep the prices under control and are confident about buying cheaper oil to fill the reserves back. Fossil fuel companies are greedy and have a long history of doing all sorts of problematic things, but one thing they’re not is stupid.

Once the recession sets in and drivers will leave their cars at home and transporting goods will take a hit, gas prices will most likely drop to the pre-health crisis levels.

Let’s wrap it up

If you followed my rambling up until this point, then you might wonder why I have not mentioned anything important about the environment and the fact that EVs outperform ICE cars in the long run when it comes to having a smaller carbon footprint. The simple answer is – a plane journey cancels out your effort.

On average, choosing a Polestar 2 instead of a Volvo XC40 could lead to saving around 31 metric tons of CO2 during the lifetime of the vehicle, according to a study done by the Chinese-owned Swedish manufacturer.

The busiest flight route in the U.S. is Las Vegas to Los Angeles. One of the aircraft types used for this one-hour journey is the Airbus A320neo. It can accommodate up to 194 passengers. The 236-mile (380-kilometer) trip generates about 132 lb (60 kg) of CO2 emissions per person, according to airmilescalculator. Adding the cabin crew and the pilots into the mix, we could say that 200 people on board the plane traveling from Nevada to California are responsible for 26,455 lb (12,000 kg) or 12 metric tons of CO2. Five one-hour trips like this flight will exceed the amount of CO2 that a driver could save during the lifetime of their EV – by twice the amount! And keep in mind, at the time of writing, 24 planes are traveling one way on this fairly short route every day!

One thing cannot be stolen away from EVs – having no tailpipe emissions is great. But this advantage alone is not enough to force everyone to give up on gas- and diesel-powered cars at a dead set time. Banning sales in 2030 or 2035 is the same as sounding the death knell for the internal combustion engine vehicle. Automakers are already scrambling to give up on this type of power unit while funneling cash toward EV development. In the short term, nobody wins – newer ICE vehicles won’t be as good as they could’ve been, while the latest EVs (look at Honda e or the Mazda MX-30) can’t attract customers because of their shortcomings. Moreover, most EVs are also a lot more expensive than their ICE counterparts for the time being.

Lastly, it would be a lot better for the new car market to have more options available now and in the future. People are different, and not everyone can conform to a single option. That is why we currently have so many gas and diesel options at the fuel station and why some vehicles run on other things like compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquified petroleum gas (LPG). PHEVs exist for almost the same reason – they aim at providing the customer with a middle ground. Now, instead of expanding the options available to car owners, we’re actively trying to remove and replace them with only one thing – electricity. Which, unfortunately, is still not clean enough.

So, we’re in a pickle. But these issues, comparisons, and future scenarios are invisible when your average new car customer looks at incentives, discounts, and charging offers that might seem very good at first, and learns from the news that governments want ICE vehicles banned because they’re not clean enough.

The weirdest part of all this is that I believe EVs will win in the end. The infrastructure will grow, the research and development will most likely bring us breakthroughs that are going to be relevant for mass production, and solutions will be found even for those living in dense urban environments. However, rushing all this because our government wishes so is what should not happen.

Let’s just hope seven years (the UK) or 12 years (the EU and some U.S. states) will be enough for automakers and their suppliers or partners to make EVs cheaper, more reliable, and more common.
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Editor's note: Editor note: text has been changed to better reflect author's opinion.

About the author: Florin Amariei
Florin Amariei profile photo

Car shows on TV and his father's Fiat Tempra may have been Florin's early influences, but nowadays he favors different things, like the power of an F-150 Raptor. He'll never be able to ignore the shape of a Ferrari though, especially a yellow one.
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