Gasoline-Powered Vehicles Head to Parking Lot of History
The next new car you buy may never need gas, motor oil, or an air filter. That car, or maybe the one after it, will run on electricity.
Even if you’re a motorhead, thrilled by the smell of high-octane in the morning, sooner or later a battery pack will take the gas engine’s place under your hood.
The decision to change is being made for you in boardrooms in Detroit, Tokyo, Wolfsburg, Germany, and Gothenburg, Sweden. Automakers around the world are running out of gas, so to speak, in favor of volts, amps, kilowatts, and ohms.
On Oct. 2, General Motors, the all-American automotive titan, announced that by spring 2019 it will launch two new all-electric vehicles based off technology it developed with its Chevrolet Bolt EV. At least 18 more all-electric cars and trucks will follow by 2023. Some reports are hinting that an all-electric Corvette will be in the lineup.
GM is executing plans for its “vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said. GM V.P. Mark Reuss added that the company’s vision is all-electric. And although the change won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to pushing increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through “no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”
GM isn’t the first to announce it is venturing into the world of electric vehicles. In July, Volvo announced it will go all-electric by 2019.
All of the Chinese-owned Swedish builder’s vehicles will have electric motors. To soften the transition, though, it will offer optional packages with internal charging engines running on gasoline.
One day after the GM news came out, Ford said it would invest $4.5 billion to add 13 new electric vehicles over the next few years, The New York Times reported.
Through August, U.S. residents bought about 60,000 battery-powered cars and a similar number of plug-in hybrids, The Times said. The sales equal 1 percent of the U.S. auto market.
German car and truck behemoths Volkswagen and Daimler recently made promises to build hundreds of thousands of EVs, as they are being called, in the near future. European and American manufacturers are also developing all-electric semi-tractor trailers.
Jaguar, the storied British automaker, now owned by India’s Tata Motors, is promoting its own all-electric I-Pace sports car for production in late 2018. Jaguar is also planning to take a giant leap backward. The shapely, cool Jaguar body style from the 1960s is making a comeback in the all-electric E-Type Zero, the online tech journal The Verge is reporting. Jaguar is bragging that the roadster can go from 0 to 62 mph in just 5.5 seconds.
The carmakers are following the lead and envying the acclaim of upstart carmaker Tesla, which began selling its all-electric Model S sports car in April 8, 2009. After years of public doubt and bad industry press, The Model S was named Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of The Year. In 2015, Consumer Reports gave the car a perfect score, calling it “the best car ever,” CNBC reported then.
With this kind of shift in the automotive industry, it’s easy to predict that in a few years, gasoline-powered cars will be about as relevant to you as VHS video tape players. Gas stations may go the way of Blockbuster Video stores. But how will electric cars change your life? Or save your life?
Electric Cars Driving Safety Improvements
The electronics emphasis behind developing efficient electric vehicles is pushing the edge of another factor: safety. Tesla, seen by many as the EV industry leader, is planning to activate full autopilot systems in its cars within a few years. In fact, Tesla founder Elon Musk said that each of its new Model 3 sedans already has installed the hardware required to switch to autopilot. Until that day comes, Tesla models have the advantage of a sophisticated crash-avoidance system. Eight cameras, a radar unit, and ultrasonic sensors feed their data into a sophisticated computer system. It can prevent auto accidents by triggering the car’s automatic braking system.
Industry and government officials hope that when full-autopilot cars become legal, they will drastically reduce roadway collisions and deaths. Predictions such as that aren’t based on track records for autopilot cars — they hardly exist. Rather, they’re based on the idea that human beings, and human error, are to blame for most accidents and deaths. Therefore, some think, computerized cars can eliminate those errors — and tragedies.
As it introduced new guidelines for developing vehicle autopilot systems in September, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said:
“Ninety-four percent of serious motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. are due to dangerous choices or errors people make on the road. Vehicle automation, in its initial stages, is already saving lives and preventing injuries. NHTSA is committed to advancing this technology due to its potential to eliminate motor vehicle-related deaths on America’s roads and to deliver additional benefits to society.”