There is much turmoil in our country right now. Divisiveness reigns supreme and it seems like you can’t even look at Facebook for sweet car pics without running across at least seven separate squabbles amongst keyboard warriors regarding a million different topics.
We don’t like to get political here at LSX Magazine for the simple reason of “race car.” But today I heard something so against my beliefs, I can no longer stay quiet. And that event is GM announced earlier that the company would abandon internal combustion all together as the company invests in electrification.
And that, my friends, cannot stand.
According to NBCNews, “GM currently offers one extended-range electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, but will add two others within 18 months, said Executive Vice President Mark Reuss with “at least 20” to be in the line-up by 2023. In addition, the company is developing a new truck platform powered by hydrogen fuel cells, dubbed Surus, short for ‘Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure.'”
“General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” Reuss said. “Although that future won’t happen overnight, GM is committed to driving increased usage and acceptance of electric vehicles through no-compromise solutions that meet our customers’ needs.”
If you’re like me, the oncoming onslaught of electrification is a mixed bag of reticence, opportunities, and rage. While I’m not typically one to resist change, the thought of the internal combustion engine no longer being produced is something I can’t even imagine.
Typically, and I’m sure many gear heads can agree with me, I’m the first to embrace new technology. Unlike my father before me, my love of all thing automotive extends well beyond the carburetor and points-style ignition systems. But the love others have for all things electric simply baffles me.
The Root Of The Problem
The best way I can illustrate the two vastly differing ideologies is with an analogy.
Growing up, my brother and I got really into RC cars for a while. We both started out with nitro-powered cars for the simple fact that it’s awesome that an RC car is running on internal combustion; and nitro at that.
For me, the visceral experience couldn’t be beat. I was always messing with the carb, and I even had to rebuild the motor on it once when my father thought airplane nitro and car nitro were interchangeable—they’re not by the way.
The fumes, the sound, and the speed were all intoxicating. Obviously this would lead to a passion for cars as well, but I digress. My brother, on the other hand, was always building something electric, while I preferred to live in the mechanical world.
Not too far into the hobby, my brother decided that electric was the way to go. I’ll be honest, it had it’s merits. The cars were frequently faster, they required much less maintenance, and you could spend more time driving it than working on it—which is great, unless you’re like me.
I however, wanted nothing to do with it. It didn’t make any fun noises, it didn’t smell awesome, and I didn’t have to work on it all the time. That may seem ironic to some, but if you’re a gearhead you know what I mean. I didn’t want a machine that didn’t need me and vise versa. It’s the same argument with manual versus auto, I want a car that needs me to drive it—but that’s an argument for another time.
Everything I have come to love about this hobby/lifestyle would disappear virtually overnight if things continue the way they’re going and that troubles me. I want to be able to build an LS (or LT, or whatever is cool and new) with my son some day.
I want to share with him all of the tips and tricks my dad shared with me when we first rebuilt a Chevy small-block together. I just can’t imagine sitting in the driveway rewinding coils on a stator and it being the same. But are there possible benefits I’m not considering?
Two Sides Of The Same Coin
While it’s natural to have somewhat of an over reaction to the thought that GM might kick the internal combustion engine to the curb for good, there might be some good in it, too.
The switch to electrification would create less demand for fossil fuels—though anyone who knows anything about where electricity comes from knows this isn’t exactly true—but for gasoline, it would be.
Does that mean that as the entire world goes electric there is more gas for me and you? Does that mean gas prices would plummet and I could finally afford to use premium pump gas to bathe in like I’ve always dreamt of?
Perhaps. But it could also mean the demise of the entire fossil fuel supply chain. Though cheap gas sounds great, what happens when there isn’t enough of a profit, or even future, in it for a company to keep at it? My nightmare, that’s what.
The “more gas for me and you” argument is probably my favorite of the electrification debate but I don’t think it will be as simply as decreasing demand and thus price. One thing is for sure, gasoline will be available for a long time to come but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth thinking about that now.
What Does It All Mean, Basill?
They say the only constant in life is change. I’m a big believer in that, and just hearing this type of news is enough for me to see the writing on the wall. The internal combustion engine’s time is drawing to an end—plain and simple. I wish I didn’t have to say that, but it’s true. With increased pressures over global warming, frequent catastrophic natural disasters, and developing third world countries, we’re looking at an event that is similar to the end of the horsepower wars in the late ‘70s.
Is this the demise of performance as we know it? I previously wrote an article discussing why there was an extinction event coming for the modern musclecar, just like their progenitors. I am now more convinced than ever that the end is the electric car—and it’s a lot closer than we think.
The First Hit’s Free
And while it is easy to be doom and gloom about the internal combustion engine, the decline will be gradual. At first it will come in the way of performance hybrids. The 918, La Ferrari, and McLaren P1 have all already shown that electrification on some level can actually work hand-in-hand with internal combustion to give you the best of both worlds. And though these cars are amazing pieces of modern technology, they are the advance party for the electric revolution.
They are the cars that slowly get us to lower our guard and start getting comfortable with it. After all, it’s not like these cars are something a hippy would drive. These machines are built with purpose, and that purpose is to obliterate a race track. Before you know it, the Corvette will be a hybrid. Not like a Prius, but more along the lines of the 918. And that’s how it will start. And it will culminate with you driving your pure electric Chevrolet Camaro around bragging to all your friends just how quiet it is and how instant the torque is.
Don’t Go Silently
After seeing what a reaction this news has caused amongst our fans, I know that I am not in the minority in thinking that electric vehicles just won’t ever cut it for me. Half of the fun of building a car is all of the crazy noises they make. While I’m sure Ford will come up with some idiotic way of replicating those noises electronically, it just isn’t the same. To me, the visceral experience of a car is more than just half of the equation. Pure acceleration is awesome, but so is blowing people’s ear drums out as you rumble by.
One of my compatriots here at Power Automedia, LSX Magazine’s parent company, thinks that having an electric car to commute in while retaining an internally combusted weekend warrior is just the ticket. After all, who cares what your commuter is powered by when you just use it to get from point A to point B?
But that’s how they get you.
We are talking about the decline of an entire industry as internal combustion goes the way of the dinosaur. Sure, companies will pop up to modify your EV and some may even transition into that but it will certainly be a disruptive change that will have a lot of consequences—the least of which is me wanting to beat a lot more people up.
So what do we do about it? Realistically, nothing. That’s just the march of time. Things are going to change, it’s inevitable. But if you think that will keep me from taking to the streets and burning a few of them to the ground, you’ve got another thing coming. Joking, of course… or am I?
The final thing I will say here is that while the thought of encroaching electrification truly worries me, there will always be hotrodders no matter what kind of vehicle is around. If two people can race them, there will always be gearheads. I might not like the idea of it, but if my son wants to build something with a brushless motor that makes 1,100 lb-ft of torque instantaneously, I guess there could be worse things–though, I can’t think of any right now.