September 2, 2016

ROB TRACINSKI: Don’t Count Out the Internal Combustion Engine.

Notice that we have been talking about all of this simply in terms of fuel economy, granting the assumption that the most important issue is to reduce fuel use. The actual behavior of the market indicates that most people don’t really care that much about fuel economy. Reduced fuel consumption is the mania in the press because they think the electric car is necessary to save the world from global warming. Yet that depends on a whole chain of assumptions: that man-made global warming is actually happening, that the cars Americans drive will make a difference, that electric cars offer significant fossil fuel reductions rather than just a “long tailpipe,” and that we wouldn’t be better off doing something else to save the world.

While the media tends to have its own fixed views on those questions, the buying public clearly does not place as high a premium on fuel efficiency, certainly not at current gasoline prices. And thanks to another big, uncelebrated advance in energy technology—fracking—gas prices aren’t likely to go up very far in the foreseeable future.

The result is that advances in the design of the internal combustion engine have actually focused less on fuel-efficiency and more on performance. As my friend Jack Wakeland summed it up, “The world has just passed through a 25-year-long golden age of car design.”

Vroom, vroom.

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