Your weekly guide to all that’s rotten about car ownership, plus some good bits
An interesting prediction from the head of Toyota’s Research and Development, Seigo Kuzamaki: he thinks the internal combustion engine dead by 2050, and will power only about 10% of cars as small units part of hybrid systems, from 2040 onwards.
He’s taking into account that car makers are expecting regulations on global emissions to tighten drastically over the next five years, and electric car development to accelerate at a pace that will end the sale of combustion engined cars globally by that point.
“We expect that by 2050 we will have reduced CO2 emissions from vehicles by 90% compared to the figure in 2010,” said Kuzumaki. “To achieve that from 2040 simple internal combustion engined cars will not be made, but they may be the basis of some hybrid or plug-in hybrid cars.”
Kuzumaki’s comments are based, I think, on the announcement from geeky Michael Gove, UK Environment Secretary, and general Aunt Sally, that sales of new combustion-engined cars are to be banned by 2040 – subsequently clarified the same day to state that new hybrid cars would be allowable – although going by the one step forward, two back of Tory Party policy, I wouldn’t count on the policy being fulfilled.
It assumes Tories still in power in 2040 claiming credit for cleaning our air, yet right-wing political parties here and in the USA are solely instrumental in slowing down progress aimed at rolling back positive environmental improvements.
At present, Toyota sells around 43% of all electrified vehicles globally, with the Prius – the choice of environmentally concerned movie stars – still the best selling electrified vehicle in the world, with more than 11 million sales to date. (The best-selling full electric vehicle is the Nissan Leaf. It currently sells around 50,000 units annually.) Toyota plans the first of a family of electric vehicles from 2020. Early models are expected to use lithium ion batteries and fall in line with the industry-standard of around 300 miles of range, the expectation they will switch to solid state batteries by the early 2020s.
Mimicking Tesla’s future – the 600 mile battery pack – Toyota thinks the arrival of solid state batteries a breakthrough in electric car technology; they’re smaller, safer than current batteries, offering substantially greater performance than today’s units.
“We hold more patents on solid state batteries than any other company. We are getting close to developing cars using the technology, and we believe that we will be ahead of our rivals in achieving that.”
All this sound rather fine and dandy but as the British economy tanks, the result of giving the nation’s wealth to bankrupt banks to squander, pulling out of Europe, and many of us lumped with a crap diesel car knowing councils are about to outlaw diesel vehicles, people are not buying new in the kind of numbers the industry needs to keep production at past levels.
Those who dislike so many cars on the road will rejoice, but fewer sales mean lower profits for research and innovation. Toyota boasts it spend $1 million USD every hour on development though you’d never guess it from the funereal, bland interiors it has been churning out of late.
UK car production took a hit for the fifth month in a row in last September. Domestic demand fell by 14.2% to 31,421 units. So much for Tory protestations that when out of Europe “we will continue to buy European brands”. Well, Germany might well be delighted, high tariffs and all, to continue selling their cars to us, but we are not buying them with the same enthusiasm as before, reluctance, sound sense, and plain poverty, a situation no politician considered in their haste to sell Brexit to the gullible.
The UK is among the worst hit by drivers reluctance to waste money on outmoded petrol cars when affordable electric driven vehicles are just around the corner, so to speak. Only Ireland, Denmark and Latvia saw bigger falls. More significant was Germany, Europe’s biggest market ahead of the UK, where registrations are down by almost 4%. The sting in all this is, the UK, (England – there’s no car industry in Scotland) makes more petrol and diesel engines than any other car part. Until Brexit the UK car industry was crowing about new record sales month by month.
The Society of British Motors Manufacturers isn’t happy about the situation.
“With UK car manufacturing falling for a fifth month this year, it’s clear that declining consumer and business confidence is affecting domestic demand and hence production volumes. Uncertainty regarding the national air quality plans also didn’t help the domestic market for diesel cars, despite the fact that these new vehicles will face no extra charges or restrictions across the UK.
Brexit is the greatest challenge of our times and yet we still don’t have any clarity on what our future relationship with our biggest trading partner will look like, nor detail of the transitional deal being sought.”
The only models holding their own are a couple of SUV’s, the Nissan Qashqai – it sounds like an exotic fruit, and the Volkswagen Tiguan – it sounds like a cocktail.
Stuck on a philosophy of bigger, faster, more powerful gas guzzling engines stuck into dazzling supercars costing a Saudi’s bank balance, a trend that dominated the last quarter of last century into this century, car manufacturers are discovering they’re way behind matching technological advances in other industries.
Finally, in a contradictory announcement that encourages the use of the combustion engines, the Department of Transport announced that classic cars more than 40 years old will be exempt from MOT testing. Owners can elect to get an MOT if they think their old car needs one. (Laughs up sleeve.) The new rules will exempt a further 293,000 cars from MOTs spitting out noxious gases. The thinking behind the decision is those cars are usually maintained in good condition and used on few occasions.
Mind you, the great leap forward I await are seats that you can clean under easily!