Days after Ford Motor Co. confirmed a new global engine program for its Essex Engine Plant in Windsor, Ont., news came that Tesla had passed the Detroit automaker in the race to become the most valu-able U.S. car company.
Online, anonymous folks took to the comment sections beneath both stories and pondered the future of the internal-combustion engine. Why would Ford invest in such technology — assuming that’s what Ford ends up building in Windsor — some wondered. Electric cars will replace the “gas dinosaurs” wrote another.
Eventually. Maybe. But not any time soon.
It’s not as if the pumps will suddenly run dry tomorrow and the breaker will be flipped to immediately charge a world’s worth of electric vehicles. Not even close, if you listen to some of the industry’s foremost executives.
For example, Magna CEO Don Walker told 300 people at the Automotive News Canada Congress in Toronto in February that full electric is “quite a ways out there."
Bob Lutz, one of the brains behind the Chevrolet Volt, recently told The Detroit News that electric vehicles could maybe one day account for five per cent of the market. But, he said, they’re too expense for the mainstream, which he said prefers gasoline and the convenience it presents.
And even though Ford has plans to unveil 13 new electric vehicles by 2020, the auto-maker knows the internal-combustion engine still has plenty of life left in it.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said during an event in Windsor announcing the new engine program that “even the most optimistic estimates say that eight years from now 90 per cent of the vehicles will still have internal-combustion engines.”
And when it comes to those engines, Ford’s design trend in recent years has been to become more fuel efficient rather than all-electric. At least for now.
The automaker has been replacing cast iron with either compact graphite iron or aluminum, both of which are lighter.
It has also reduced engine size and displacement but not power, and has added start-stop technology to boost city fuel economy. Direct fuel injection, turbos and variable valve timing have all helped, too.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also tossed the traditional engine a lifeline by promising to reopen a review of Obama-eraU.S. auto-emissions mandates, which are usually followed in Canada.
So even though electric is likely the future — and hydrogen can’t be ruled out, either — the internal combustion engine isn’t going away any time soon. Not by a long shot. It’s just going to become more fuel efficient, and cleaner burning, in the future.